Psalm 133 – “Wisdom Saying”

siblingsHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Psalm 133 begins by praising brotherly coexistence and then gives three supporting similes.

II. Photo

v. 1 says, “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together.”

III. Outline
1a. Superscription
1bc. Commendation formula
2-3. Commendatory similes

IV. Comment
Psalm 133 opens with a sapiential statement that praises brotherly coexistence: “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together (shevet achim yachdaw).” For two very interesting parallel see Deut. 25:5, “When brothers dwell together (yeshvu achim yachdaw) and one of them dies and leaves no son…” and Gen. 13:5-6, “Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support them staying together (shevet yachdaw); for their possessions were so great that they could not remain together.”

The wisdom statement is introduced by the word hinneh “behold” which seems to have served an instructional function (similar to Ps. 121:4, 123:2, 134:1). It is related in meaning and purpose to the beatitudes that begin “praiseworthy is the man who…” (e.g. Ps. 1:1, 40:5, etc.), and has a proverbial form (cf. Prov. 15:23 and 16:16 for the phrase mah tow “how good”).

The psalm then gives three metaphors, each of which describes a flow from the top down: (a) oil on the head, (b) a beard on the robes, and (c) dew from Mt. Hermon. Gerstenberger writes that these “no doubt were happy and illuminating similes for a contemporary audience, but for us it is rather difficult to see the point of comparison” (372). While the mention of Aaron is enigmatic, Mt. Hermon seems to have been a popular theme in Biblical poetry (cf. Ps. 42:7, 89:13, 133:3, Song 4:8). The psalm ends with what might be seen as a short hymn to Zion: “There the LORD ordained blessing, everlasting life.” Yet, the phrase is ambiguous, it might be modifying “Mt. Hermon.”

The psalm’s location amongst the shir hama’alot psalms (Ps. 120-134) might indicate that it was used by the pilgrims who journeyed to Jerusalem.

V. Important Verses
v. 1: “How good and how pleasant it is that brothers dwell together.”