Psalm 125 is part of the “Songs of Ascent” (Ps. 120-134) sung by Jews approaching the Temple Mount to worship in the Temple courts. This psalm seems to have originated while Israel was in Babylon under the imperial power of Babylonia or after Israel’s return to Jerusalem while Persia held power. The ruling foreign national power of Babylon or Persia is referred to as “the scepter the wicked” in 125:3.
The focus of this psalm is on the steadfastness of Mount Zion which is geographically Mount Moriah, the location of the temple mount and the fallen temple. It appears this psalm was written at a time early in the Jewish return from Babylon during the Persian Empire between 537-516 BC when there was no temple standing. Since, there is not a standing temple the psalmist focuses our attention on the enduring nature of Mount Moriah, called Mount Zion here.
The Hebrew verb “yashab” is translated “endure.” “Yashab” means “abide, continue, dwell, establish and endure.” It is often translated “to be settled” as in Joel 3:20 where the NIV text says, “Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations.” God’s enduring protection of Mount Moriah and the people who worship there is portrayed in the image created by the mountains that encircle it.
God’s presence surrounds his people always and forever just like the mountains around Jerusalem have been established to always surround the temple Mount.
Do realize that even in today’s topography Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount referred to as Mount Zion by the writer of Psalm 125) sets lower than these mounts that surround it:
- To the east Mount Olives is 215 feet higher
- To the south the mount of Jabal al Mukaber is 175 feet higher
- To the west the Western Hill which includes what is today called Mt. Zion is 110 feet higher
- To the northeast Mount Scopus is 250 feet higher
- Five miles to the north is the High Place of Gibeon (Nabi Samwil) which is 541 feet higher
The image of Mount Moriah, the temple mount, being established and surrounded by higher mounts to the north, the south, the east and the west is an image of God’s people dwelling eternally surrounded by his protection.