Psalm 121:6
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
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(6) Smite thee.—The mention of shade leads to the amplification of the figure. The evil effects of sunstroke are too well known to need comment. They are often mentioned in the Bible (2Kings 4:18; 2Kings 4:20; Jonah 4; Judith 8:3).

Nor the moon by night.—Possibly there is allusion to the belief, so common in old times, of the harmful influence of the moon’s light—a belief still recalled in the word lunacy. It is a fact that temporary blindness is often caused by moonlight. (See authorities referred to by Ewald and Delitzsch.) Others, again, think that the injurious cold of the night is here placed in antithesis to the heat of the noonday sun (comp. Genesis 31:40; Jeremiah 36:30), the impression that intense cold burns being common in the East, as indeed everywhere. Tennyson speaks of the moon being “keen with frost.” But it is also possible that the generally harmful effects of night air are intended.

121:1-8 The safety of the godly. - We must not rely upon men and means, instruments and second causes. Shall I depend upon the strength of the hills? upon princes and great men? No; my confidence is in God only. Or, we must lift up our eyes above the hills; we must look to God who makes all earthly things to us what they are. We must see all our help in God; from him we must expect it, in his own way and time. This psalm teaches us to comfort ourselves in the Lord, when difficulties and dangers are greatest. It is almighty wisdom that contrives, and almighty power that works the safety of those that put themselves under God's protection. He is a wakeful, watchful Keeper; he is never weary; he not only does not sleep, but he does not so much as slumber. Under this shade they may sit with delight and assurance. He is always near his people for their protection and refreshment. The right hand is the working hand; let them but turn to their duty, and they shall find God ready to give them success. He will take care that his people shall not fall. Thou shalt not be hurt, neither by the open assaults, nor by the secret attempts of thine enemies. The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest. He will preserve the soul, that it be not defiled by sin, and disturbed by affliction; he will preserve it from perishing eternally. He will keep thee in life and death; going out to thy labour in the morning of thy days, and coming home to thy rest when the evening of old age calls thee in. It is a protection for life. The Spirit, who is their Preserver and Comforter, shall abide with them for ever. Let us be found in our work, assured that the blessings promised in this psalm are ours.The sun shall not smite thee by day - The Septuagint renders this, "shall not burn thee" - συγκαύσει sungkausei. So the Latin Vulgate. The Hebrew word means to smite, to strike, as with a rod or staff, or with the plague or pestilence; and then, to kill, to slay. The allusion here is to what is now called a "sun-stroke" - the effect of the burning sun on the brain. Such effects of the sun are often fatal now, as doubtless they were in the time of the psalmist.

Nor the moon by night - The psalmist here refers to some prevalent opinion about the influence of the moon, as endangering life or health. Some have supposed that he refers to the sudden cold which follows the intense heat of the day in Oriental countries, and which, because the moon rules the night, as the sun does the day, is either poetically or literally attributed to the moon. Lackmann and Michaelis suppose that there is some allusion to the influence of the moon in producing various kinds of disease, and especially lunacy - an idea which gave origin to that name. Compare the notes at Matthew 4:24. See Matthew 17:15; Mark 9:17; Luke 9:39. Knapp supposes the idea is, that from the moon's not giving a clear and full light like the sun, travelers trusting to its guidance may be led into rivers or quagmires. Macrobius refers to a custom among the Orientals of covering the faces of children when asleep, from some imagined effect of the moon on the health of the child. Andersen (Orient. Reise-Beschreib. i. 8) refers to an effect, which he says is common, and which he had often seen, of sleeping in the moon-beams, of making the neck stiff, so that it could not be turned from side to side as before. See Rosenmuller, Morgenland, in loc. Others have supposed that the allusion is to the effect of the moon, and of sleeping under the open air, in producing ophthalmia - a disease very common in the East - an effect guarded against by covering the face. The influence of the moon, in producing madness or disease - the general influence of it on health - is often referred to. Thus Shakespeare says:

"The moon, the governess of floods,

Pale in her anger, washes all the air,

That rheumatic diseases do abound."

Midsummer Night's Dream, ii.2.

"It is the very error of the moon;

She comes more near the earth than she was wont,

And makes men mad."

Othello, v. 2.

Some of these things are evidently purely imaginary. The true idea seems to be that there were effects to be dreaded from the sudden changes from the heat of day to the cold of night, and that these effects were attributed to the moon. See Genesis 31:40. The meaning is, that God would be a Protector alike in the dangers of the day and of the night.

6-8. God keeps His people at all times and in all perils.

nor the moon by night—poetically represents the dangers of the night, over which the moon presides (Ge 1:16).

The sun shall not smite thee with excessive heat,

nor the moon with that cold and moisture which comes into the air by it and with it. Intemperate heats and colds are the two springs of many diseases. He alludes both to the conditions of soldiers or travellers, who are exposed to the open air by day and by night, and also to the cloudy pillar which defended the Israelites both by day and by night. The sense is, He shall protect thee from all evils both by day and night.

The sun shall not smite thee by day,.... With its rays, which it shoots forth like darts, and which fly swiftly, and pierce and hurt: hence Apollo, the same with the sun, is represented with a bow and arrows (o); so the rays of the sun seem to be called in Habakkuk 2:11;

nor the moon by night; this clause should be supplied, as a learned man (p) observes, thus, "neither shall the moon cool thee by night"; for that has no warmth in it, and cannot smite with heat, as the sun does: for even, as he observes, its rays focused by a magnifying glass will not communicate the least degree of sensible heat to bodies objected thereunto; yet some say (q) the moon is not only moist, but heats bodies as the sun. And Isaac Vossius (r) observes, that there can be no light, which, separately considered, does not contain some heat at least: and Macrobius (s) speaks of the lunar heat; and Plutarch (t) ascribes heat and inflammation to it, and asserts it to be fire. It is said (u) that some men of good credit, in a voyage to Guinea, strongly affirmed, that, in the night season, they felt a sensible heat to come from the beams of the moon. The Septuagint version is, "the sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night". And burning may be ascribed to the cold frosty air in a moonlight night, as to the north wind, as in the Apocrypha:

"20 When the cold north wind bloweth, and the water is congealed into ice, it abideth upon every gathering together of water, and clotheth the water as with a breastplate. 21 It devoureth the mountains, and burneth the wilderness, and consumeth the grass as fire.'' (Sirach 43)

see Genesis 31:40; and our English poet (w) expresses a sentiment to this effect; yet not what affects the bodies of men, but plants, trees, &c. and this not owing to the moon, but to the air. However, these clauses are not to be understood literally; for good men may be smitten and hurt by the heat of the one and the cold of the other, as Jacob and Jonah, Genesis 31:40; but mystically, of persecuting antichristian tyrants, which are sometimes signified by the sun and moon, as both in Rome Pagan and Papal, Revelation 6:12; and of persecution and tribulation itself, Matthew 13:6; and is sometimes applied to the perfect state of the saints, either in the New Jerusalem, or ultimate glory, when there will be nothing more of this kind, Revelation 7:15. And there are some periods in the present state, when those entirely cease; nor are the saints ever really hurt by them, they being always for their good; or, however, not so as to affect their eternal happiness. The Targum is,

"in the day, when the sun rules, the morning spirits shall not smite thee; nor the nocturnal ones in the night, when the moon rules.''

(o) Macrob. Saturnal. l. 1. c. 17. (p) Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. p. 976, 977. (q) Suidas in voce so Theodoret. (r) De Motu Marium & Vent. c. 6. Vid. Senecae Nat. Quaest. l. 5. c. 9. (s) Saturnal. l. 7. c. 16. (t) De Facie Lunae, in tom. 2. p. 933. (u) The Second Voyage in Eden's Travels, p. 350. 2.((w) "----The parching air----Burns frore (frosty) and cold performs the effect of fire". Milton's Paradise Lost, l. 2. v. 594.

The sun shall not {c} smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

(c) Neither heat nor cold, nor any inconvenience will be able to destroy God's Church, even though for a time they may molest it.

6. The metaphor is naturally suggested by ‘shade’ in Psalm 121:5. Sunstroke is of course common and dangerous in the East (2 Kings 4:19; Isaiah 49:10); and the belief in ‘moonstroke’ as and is widely spread.

Verse 6. - The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. These were the chief dangers of travelers, whether pilgrims or others. Coup de soleil was feared by day, and the deleterious influence of the moon's rays by night. This last has sometimes been doubted, but the observation of modern travelers seems to show that bad effects actually fellow on sleeping in the moonlight in hot countries (see Curzon's 'Travels,' p. 36; Leopolt, 'India Missions,' p. 7). Psalm 121:6That which holds good of "the Keeper of Israel" the poet applies believingly to himself, the individual among God's people, in Psalm 121:5 after Genesis 28:15. Jahve is his Keeper, He is his shade upon his right hand (היּמין as in Judges 20:16; 2 Samuel 20:9, and frequently; the construct state instead of an apposition, cf. e.g., Arab. jânbu 'l-grbı̂yi, the side of the western equals the western side), which protecting him and keeping him fresh and cool, covers him from the sun's burning heat. על, as in Psalm 109:6; Psalm 110:5, with the idea of an overshadowing that screens and spreads itself out over anything (cf. Numbers 14:9). To the figure of the shadow is appended the consolation in Psalm 121:6. הכּה of the sun signifies to smite injuriously (Isaiah 49:10), plants, so that they wither (Psalm 102:5), and the head (Jonah 4:8), so that symptoms of sun-stroke (2 Kings 4:19, Judith 8:2f.) appears. The transferring of the word of the moon is not zeugmatic. Even the moon's rays may become insupportable, may affect the eyes injuriously, and (more particularly in the equatorial regions) produce fatal inflammation of the brain.

(Note: Many expositors, nevertheless, understand the destructive influence of the moon meant here of the nightly cold, which is mentioned elsewhere in the same antithesis. Genesis 31:40; Jeremiah 36:30. De Sacy observes also: On dit quelquefois d'un grand froid, comme d'un grand chaud, qu'il est brulant. The Arabs also say of snow and of cold as of fire: jaḥrik, it burns.)

From the hurtful influences of nature that are round about him the promise extends in Psalm 121:7-8 in every direction. Jahve, says the poet to himself, will keep (guard) thee against all evil, of whatever kind it may be and whencesoever it may threaten; He will keep thy soul, and therefore thy life both inwardly and outwardly; He will keep (ישׁמר־, cf. on the other hand ישׁפּט־ in Psalm 9:9) thy going out and coming in, i.e., all thy business and intercourse of life (Deuteronomy 28:6, and frequently); for, as Chrysostom observes, ἐν τούτοις ὁ βίος ἅπας, ἐν εἰσόδοις καὶ ἐξόδοις, therefore: everywhere and at all times; and that from this time forth even for ever. In connection with this the thought is natural, that the life of him who stands under the so universal and unbounded protection of eternal love can suffer no injury.

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