Psalm 123 is also in the collection of psalms known as the “Songs of Ascent” sung by worshippers and visiting pilgrims as they made their way up the southern stairs during the processional portion of the temple ceremony and into the temple courts. (See photo of steps on south side below.)
This Psalm appears to have been written and originally performed after a lengthy period of community affliction and oppression (123:3-4). Psalm 123 was likely written during the Jew’s time in Babylon (exilic period) or after their return to Jerusalem (post-exilic period).
This psalm served as a source of encouragement for the community as public profession of faith in God was made by the individual and the whole community. In verse 123:1 the singular individual is likely the officiating priest. And, the plural of verse 123:2 is the response of the community.
The statement to “lift up my eyes” is reference to prayer. And, the comparison to male slaves looking to their master and female slaves looking to their mistress is an all-inclusive call to everyone in the community to pray since we all are dependent on the Lord.
The lyrics of Psalm 123 focus on the fact that the people on earth are completely dependent on the God who is above. The people below look upward toward their God who is not merely above them, but is also “enthroned” in “heaven” above their afflictions and ruling over the powers that oppress them below on earth.
Stairs used by worshippers to ascend Mount Moriah and access to
Temple gates to enter the Temple courts in Jerusalem.