Psalm 134

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Psalm 134
"Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD"
Song of Ascents
Old Jerusalem Beit El Yeshiva Netilat yadayim.jpg
Verse 2 of the psalm, written above a sink used for ritual hand washing at the Beit El yeshiva, Old City, Jerusalem
Other name
  • Psalm 133
  • "Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum"
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 134 is the 134th psalm from the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse in the King James Version, "Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD". The Book of Psalms is part of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. It is Psalm 133 in the slightly different numbering system of the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate versions of the Bible. Its Latin title is "Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum".[1] It is the last of the fifteen Songs of Ascents (Shir Hama'alot), and one of the three Songs of Ascents consisting of only three verses.[2]

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies. It has been set to music often and paraphrased in hymns. The short psalm is part of the daily Catholic service Compline, for which settings in Latin were composed by composers such as Tomás Luis de Victoria and Orlande de Lassus. It is frequently used in Anglican Evening Prayer, with settings by John Dowland and Benjamin Rogers, among others.

Background and themes[edit]

The New King James Version entitles this psalm "Praising the Lord in His House at Night".[3] Nonconformist minister Matthew Henry notes that, as the last of the Songs of Ascents, this psalm serves as a fitting conclusion to the singing of all the Songs of Ascents in the Temple in Jerusalem which took place by day, as it exhorts "the ministers to go on with their work in the night, when the solemnities of the day were over". The psalm could also be interpreted as a "dialogue", as the priests and Levites who served in the Temple are enjoined in verses 1 and 2 to spend their time during the night watch in acts of devotion rather than small talk; and in verse 3 these devotees are urged to pray for the one who enjoined them in verse 1 – either the High Priest or a captain of the night guard.[4] A note in the Jerusalem Bible suggests that the dialogue involves pilgrims and temple ministers.[5] Similarly, Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon posits that verse 1 was recited by the festival pilgrims leaving the temple in the predawn darkness; seeing the guards with their lamps on the temple wall, they bid farewell to these loyal caretakers of the sanctuary. In return, the priests call out their own blessing for the departing pilgrims in verse 3. Spurgeon extrapolates from this the need for congregants to pray for those who minister to them, and for ministers to pronounce blessings on their congregations.[6]

The Midrash Tehillim connects the contents of this psalm to several Jewish practices. Rabbi Yochanan says that "servants of the Lord who stand in the house of the Lord at night" mentioned in verse 1 refers to those who engage in nighttime Torah study, which God considers in the same light "as if they occupied themselves with the priest's service in the house of the Lord". The midrash connects the lifting of the hands in preparation for blessing the Lord in verse 2 with the practice of lifting up the cup of wine with both hands for the recital of the Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals). The midrash further connects this verse to the Priestly Blessing, as Rabbi Simeon ben Pazzi says that a Kohen who has not ritually washed his hands may not lift them to invoke the Priestly Blessing.[7]

The Zohar also explains verse 2 as referring to the kohanim (members of the Jewish priestly class) who bestow the Priestly Blessing upon the congregation in the synagogue with raised hands. Before pronouncing the blessing, the kohanim must ritually wash their hands. They do not do so themselves; rather, the handwashing is performed by members of the levitical class, "who themselves are holy". If a Levite is not present in the synagogue, a firstborn son pours the water, since he too is called "holy".[8]

Text[edit]

Hebrew Bible version[edit]

Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 134:

Verse Hebrew
1 שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּֽ֫עֲל֥וֹת הִנֵּ֚ה | בָֽרֲכ֣וּ אֶת־יְ֖הֹוָה כָּל־עַבְדֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה הָֽעֹמְדִ֥ים בְּבֵית־יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה בַּלֵּילֽוֹת
2 שְׂאֽוּ־יְדֵכֶ֥ם קֹ֑דֶשׁ וּ֜בָֽרְכוּ אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה
3 יְבָרֶכְךָ֣ יְ֖הֹוָה מִצִּיּ֑וֹן עֹ֜שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ

King James Version[edit]

  1. Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD.
  2. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
  3. The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.

Uses[edit]

Judaism[edit]

Psalm 134 is recited following the Shabbat afternoon prayer between Sukkot and Shabbat Hagadol (the Shabbat before Passover).[9] In the Siddur Avodas Yisrael, the entire psalm is recited before the evening prayer on weekdays.[10] The psalm is also recited in full before engaging in Torah study.[11]

Verses 1 and 2 are part of Selichot.[10]

During the ritual washing of the hands before breaking bread, some say verse 2 prior to the blessing of al netilat yadayim.[12][13]

Catholic[edit]

The psalm, mentioning "night", forms part of the Benedictine rite of the daily evening prayer Compline.[14]

Anglican[edit]

The Book of Common Prayer translation of the psalm consists of four verses:[15]

  1. Behold now, praise the Lord: all ye servants of the Lord;
  2. Ye that by night stand in the house of the Lord: even in the courts of the house of our God.
  3. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary: and praise the Lord.
  4. The Lord that made heaven and earth: give thee blessing out of Sion.

In the Church of Ireland and other churches in the Anglican Communion, this psalm (listed as Ecce Nunc) is also listed as a canticle.[16]

Orthodox Church[edit]

This Psalm is used in the night prayer, which is one among the seven canonical prayer. The psalm 134, 119:169-176, 117 together used as a single prayer.

Musical settings[edit]

Among the hymns which are based on Psalm 134 is "Come, all you servants of the Lord", which Arlo D. Duba wrote in 1984 to the melody Old Hundredth.[17]

Tomás Luis de Victoria set the psalm in Latin, Ecce nunc benedicite, for double choir.[18] Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus wrote the motet Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum for seven voices a cappella, using a wide range from low bass to very high soprano.[19][20]

John Dowland supplied a setting in English, "Behold and have regard", to the collection The Whole Booke of Psalmes with works by ten composers, published in 1592 by Thomas Este.[21][22] Benjamin Rogers set the version in the English Book of Common Prayer, Behold, now praise the Lord, for choir a cappella in the 17th century.[23] Malcolm Hill composed a setting in English for mixed choir and organ in 1996, titled Meditation on Psalm 134.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 133 (134) Archived 7 May 2017 at the Wayback Machine medievalist.net
  2. ^ Samet, Rav Elchanan (2018). "Shiur #08: Psalm 117 – 'O Praise The Lord, All You Nations' The Shortest Psalm in the Book of Tehillim". Yeshivat Har Etzion. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  3. ^ Psalm 134
  4. ^ Henry, Matthew. "Psalms 134". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  5. ^ Jerusalem Bible (1966), footnote at Psalm 134
  6. ^ "Charles H. Spurgeon's Treasury of David: Psalm 134". christianity.com. 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  7. ^ "Midrash Tehillim / Psalms 134" (PDF). matsati.com. October 2012. p. 1. Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  8. ^ Gelbard, Shemu'el Pinḥas (1998). Rite and Reason: 1050 Jewish Customs and Their Sources. 1. Feldheim Publishers. p. 82. ISBN 9780873068895.
  9. ^ Nulman, Macy (1996). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer: The Ashkenazic and Sephardic Rites. Jason Aronson. p. 303. ISBN 1461631246.
  10. ^ a b Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 49.
  11. ^ "General". DailyTehillim.com. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  12. ^ Berkowitz, Adena K.; Haut, Rivka (2007). Shaarei Simcha: Gates of Joy. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. p. 36. ISBN 9780881259667.
  13. ^ Sutton, Rabbi Avraham (2018). The Breslov Siddur: Shabbos/Yom Tov. Breslov Research Institute, pp. 184–185. ISBN 978-1-928822-84-4
  14. ^ "St. Benedict's Psalmody". University of Toronto. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Psalm 134 - ChoralWiki". www0.cpdl.org. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  16. ^ "2004 Texts (Section: The Canticles)". The Church of Ireland.
  17. ^ "Come, all you servants of the Lord". hymnary.org. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  18. ^ Free scores of Ecce nunc benedicite (Tomás Luis de Victoria) in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  19. ^ "Laudent Deum: Sacred Music by Orlande de Lassus" (PDF). Chandos Records. 2011. p. 10. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  20. ^ Free scores of Ecce nunc benedicite Dominum (Orlando di Lasso) in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  21. ^ The Whole Booke of Psalmes (Various): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  22. ^ Psalm 134: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  23. ^ Free scores of Behold, now praise the Lord (Benjamin Rogers) in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  24. ^ Meditation on Psalm 134 (Hill, Malcolm): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)

External links[edit]