Psalm 120:5
Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
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(5) Mesech.—This name is generally identified with Moschi, mentioned by Herodotus (iii. 94), a tribe on the borders of Colchis and Armenia. It appears again in the prophet Ezekiel 27:13; Ezekiel 38:3; Ezekiel 39:1. The only reason for suspecting the accuracy of this identification is the remoteness from Kedar, who were a nomad tribe of Arabia. (See Genesis 25:13; Song of Solomon 1:5.) But in the absence of any other indication of the motive for the mention of these tribes here, this very remoteness affords a sufficiently plausible one; or they may be types of savage life, selected the one from the north, and the other from the south, as poetry dictated. It is quite possible that the circumstances amid which the poet wrote made it necessary for him to veil in this way his allusion to powerful tribes, from whose violence the nation was suffering. At all events, the two concluding verses leave no doubt that some troubled state of affairs, in which the choice of courses was not easy, and affecting the whole nation. not an individual, is here presented.

Psalm 120:5. Wo is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar — Mesech and Kedar are two sorts of people often mentioned in Scripture, and reckoned among the barbarous nations. But their names are here to be understood metaphorically, and so he explains himself in the next verse. 120:5-7 It is very grievous to a good man, to be cast into, and kept in the company of the wicked, from whom he hopes to be for ever separated. See here the character of a good man; he is for living peaceably with all men. And let us follow David as he prefigured Christ; in our distress let us cry unto the Lord, and he will hear us. Let us follow after peace and holiness, striving to overcome evil with good.Woe is me - My lot is a sad and pitiable one, that I am compelled to live in this manner, and to be exposed thus to malignant reproaches. It is like living in Mesech or in Kedar.

That I sojourn - The word used here does not denote a permanent abode, but it usually refers to a temporary lodging, as when one is a traveler, a pilgrim, a stranger, and is under a necessity of passing a night in a strange land on his way to the place of his destination. The trouble or discomfort here referred to is not that which would result from having his home there, or abiding there permanently, but of feeling that he was a stranger, and would be exposed to all the evils and inconveniences of a stranger among such a people. A man who resided in a place permanently might be subject to fewer inconveniences than if he were merely a temporary lodger among strangers.

In Mesech - The Septuagint and Vulgate render this, "that my sojourning is protracted." The Hebrew word - משׁך meshek - means, properly "drawing," as of seed "scattered regularly along the furrows" Psalm 126:6; and then possession, Job 28:18. The people of Meshech or the Moschi, were a barbarous race inhabiting the Moschian regions between Iberia, Armenia, and Colchis. Meshech was a son of Japheth, Genesis 10:2; 1 Chronicles 1:5. The name is connected commonly with "Tubal," Ezekiel 27:13 : "Tubal and Meshech they were thy merchants." Ezekiel 39:1 : "I am against ... the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal," Herodotus (iii. 94; vii. 78) connects them with the Tibarenes. The idea here is, that they were a barbarous, savage, uncivilized people. They dwelt outside of Palestine, beyond what were regarded as the borders of civilization; and the word seems to have had a signification similar to the names Goths, Vandals, Turks, Tartars, Cossacks, in later times. It is not known that they were particularly remarkable for slander or calumny; but the meaning is that they were barbarous and savage - and to dwell among slanderers and revilers seemed to the psalmist to be like dwelling among a people who were strangers to all the rules and principles of civilized society.

That I dwell in the tents of Kedar - The word Kedar means properly dark skin, a darkskinned man. Kedar was a son of Ishmael Genesis 25:13, and hence, the name was given to an Arabian tribe descended from him, Isaiah 42:11; Isaiah 60:7; Jeremiah 49:28. The idea here also is, that to dwell among slanderers was like dwelling among barbarians and savages.

5. A residence in these remote lands pictures his miserable condition. Mesech and

Kedar are two sorts of people, oft mentioned in Scripture, and reckoned amongst the heathen and barbarous nations. But their nurses are not here to be understood properly, (for we do not read that either David or the Israelites in the Babylonish captivity dwelt in their lands,) but only metaphorically, as the ungodly Israelites are called Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:10, and Amorites and Hittithes, Ezekiel 16:3,45, and as in common speech among us, men of an evil character are called Turks or Jews. And so he explains himself in the next verse by this description of them, him or them that hated peace, although David sought peace with them, Psalm 120:7. And so he speaks either,

1. Of the Philistines, among whom he sojourned for a time. But he did not seek peace with them, but sought their ruin, as the event showed; nor did they wage war against him, whilst he lived peaceably among them. Or rather,

2. The courtiers and soldiers of Saul, and the generality of the Israelites, who, to curry favour with Saul, sought David’s ruin, and that many times by treachery and pretences of friendship; of which he oft complains in this book; whom as he elsewhere calls heathen, as Psalm 9:5 59:5, it is not strange if he compares them here to the savage Arabians. And amongst such persons David was oft forced to sojourn in Saul’s time, and with them he sought peace by all ways possible; but they hated peace, and the more he pursued peace, the more eagerly did they prosecute the war, as it here follows. Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech,.... Meshech was a son of Japheth, Genesis 10:2; whose posterity are thought by some to be the Muscovites (z) and Scythians, a barbarous sort of people: Mesech is frequently mentioned with Tubal and his brother, and with Gog and Magog, Ezekiel 38:2; the Targum here calls them Asiatics. Rather the Cappadocians, according to Josephus (a); and Strabo (b) makes mention of a city of theirs, called Mazaca: and the rather, since they are mentioned with the Kedarenes, or Arabian Scenites, and were nearer to the land of Judea than the former;

that I dwell in the tents of Kedar; Kedar was a son of Ishmael, Genesis 25:13; whose posterity were Arabians, as the Targum here renders it; and Suidas (c) says, they dwelt not far from Babylon, when he wrote; they lived a pastoral life, and dwelt in tents: Pliny (d) makes mention of Arabs, called Cedrei; and also of Scenite Arabs, from the tents they dwelt in, which they could remove from place to place for the sake of pasturage. And among these David dwelt, when in the wilderness of Paran, 1 Samuel 25:1; though some think David never dwelt among any of those people, but among such who were like unto them for ignorance, idolatry, and barbarity. Some render the words, "woe is me, that I sojourn so long, dwelling as in the tents of Kedar" (e); as when he was among the Philistines and Moabites; nay, even he may compare his own people to those, many of whom it was as disagreeable dwelling with as with these: and we find Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, speaking of them in their times in like manner, and making the same complaints, Isaiah 6:5. And very grieving and distressing it is to good men to have their abode among wicked men; as well as it is infectious and dangerous: to hear their profane and blasphemous talk, to see their wicked and filthy actions, and to observe their abominable conversation, is very vexatious, and gives great uneasiness, as it did to righteous Lot, 2 Peter 2:7. The first clause is rendered by the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, "woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged"; to which the next words agree, Psalm 120:6.

(z) Davide de Pomis, Lexic. fol. 86. 1. 3. (a) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. (b) Geograph. l. 12. p. 370. Rufi Fest. Breviar. Vid Suidam in voce (c) In voce (d) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 11. (e) Weemse's of the Ceremonial Law, c. 3. p. 8.

Woe is me, that I sojourn in {e} Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of {f} Kedar!

(e) These were people of Arabia, who came from Japheth, Ge 10:2.

(f) That is, of the Ishmaelites.

5. I sojourn … I dwell] The perfect tenses of the Heb. are rightly translated by the present. The experience is not a thing of the past. He has long dwelt and still must dwell among these uncongenial neighbours. P.B.V. (= Great Bible of 1539) Woe is me that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech and to have my habitation among the tents of Kedar is from Münster, Heu mihi quod cum Maesech peregrinari cogor, et habitare cum tabernaculis Kedar. Coverdale’s earlier version was, Wo is me, yt my banishmçt endureth so lôge: I dwell in the tabernacles of the soroufull; derived from the Zürich: “Ach dass mein ellend so lang wäret, ich wonen in den hütten der traurigen.”

Meshech, mentioned in Genesis 10:2 as a son of Japheth, was a barbarous people living between the Black Sea and the Caspian, probably the Moschi of Herodotus (iii. 94), and Mushki of the Assyrian inscriptions: Kedar, mentioned in Genesis 25:13 as the second son of Ishmael, was one of the wild tribes which roamed through the Arabian desert, “whose hand was against every man” (Genesis 16:12). Obviously the Psalmist cannot mean to describe himself as actually living among peoples so remote from one another, but applies these typical names of barbarian tribes to his own compatriots, as we might speak of Turks and Tartars.

in the tents] R.V. among the tents.

5–7. The Psalmist laments that he is compelled to live among neighbours who are as hostile as rude barbarians.Verse 5. - Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech. This is scarcely to be understood literally. Israel never "sojourned in Mesech," i.e. among the Moschi, who dwelt in Cappadocia, nor dwelt among the tents of Kedar, a people of Northern Arabia. The writer means that he dwells among hostile and barbarous people, who are to him as Kedar and Mesech. Possibly the Samaritans and Ammonites are intended. That I dwell in the tents of Kedar; rather, among the tents (see the Revised Version). The eightfold Tav. May God answer this his supplication as He has heard his praise, and interest Himself on behalf of His servant, the sheep that is exposed to great danger. The petitions "give me understanding" and "deliver me" go hand-in-hand, because the poet is one who is persecuted for the sake of his faith, and is just as much in need of the fortifying of his faith as of deliverance from the outward restraint that is put upon him. רנּה is a shrill audible prayer; תּחנּה, a fervent and urgent prayer. ענה, prop. to answer, signifies in Psalm 119:172 to begin, strike up, attune (as does ἀποκρίνεσθαι also sometimes). According to the rule in Psalm 50:23 the poet bases his petition for help upon the purpose of thankful praise of God and of His word. Knowing how to value rightly what he possesses, he is warranted in further supplicating and hoping for the good that he does not as yet possess. The "salvation" for which he longs (תּאב as in Psalm 119:40, Psalm 119:20) is redemption from the evil world, in which the life of his own soul is imperilled. May then God's judgments (defective plural, as in Psalm 119:43, Psalm 119:149, which the Syriac only takes a singular) succour him (יעזּרני, not יעזרני). God's hand, Psalm 119:173, and God's word afford him succour; the two are involved in one another, the word is the medium of His hand. After this relationship of the poet to God's word, which is attested a hundredfold in the Psalm, it may seem strange that he can say of himself תּעיתי כּשׂה אבד; and perhaps the accentuation is correct when it does not allow itself to be determined by Isaiah 53:6, but interprets: If I have gone astray - seek Thou like a lost sheep Thy servant. שׂה אבד is a sheep that is lost (cf. אבדים as an appellation of the dispersion, Isaiah 27:13) and in imminent danger of total destruction (cf. Psalm 31:13 with Leviticus 26:38). In connection with that interpretation which is followed by the interpunction, Psalm 119:176 is also more easily connected with what precedes: his going astray is no apostasy; his home, to which he longs to return when he has been betrayed into by-ways, is beside the Lord.
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