Psalm 120:4
(4) Sharp.--Better, sharpened, whetted, as if for a purpose.

Juniper.--Properly, broom. Hebrew, rothem, a plant identical with the Arabian retem and Algerian retama. (See 1Kings 19:4-5.) Doctor Tristram mentions the employment of this bush for fuel. "It is ruthlessly uprooted by the Arabs, wherever it is tolerably abundant, for the manufacture of charcoal, which is considered of the finest quality, and fetches a higher price at Cairo than any other kind. Several travellers have mentioned their meeting with Bedouins employed in conveying retem charcoal to the Egyptian markets" (Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 360; see also Bible Educator, iv. 194). Burckhardt and Robinson also both noticed this trade.

Wonderful stories are told both by Jerome and the rabbis, how travellers, having cooked their food by fires made of the juniper wood, which they suppose to be the wood here meant, and returning a year after to the same spot, still found the embers alive.

Verse 4. - Sharp arrows of the mighty. The psalmist answers his own questions. Sharp-pointed arrows of a Mighty One shall be given thee, and added to them shall be coals of juniper. God, i.e., shall punish thee with extreme severity.

120:1-4 The psalmist was brought into great distress by a deceitful tongue. May every good man be delivered from lying lips. They forged false charges against him. In this distress, he sought God by fervent prayer. God can bridle their tongues. He obtained a gracious answer to this prayer. Surely sinners durst not act as they do, if they knew, and would be persuaded to think, what will be in the end thereof. The terrors of the Lord are his arrows; and his wrath is compared to burning coals of juniper, which have a fierce heat, and keep fire very long. This is the portion of the false tongue; for all that love and make a lie, shall have their portion in the lake that burns eternally.Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. Some think these words describe lying lips, and a false tongue; which are like arrows, sharp ones, sent out from a bow drawn with a mighty hand, which come with great force, suddenly and swiftly, and do much mischief; see Psalm 11:2; and to "coals of juniper", very distressing and tormenting; the tongue being a fire, set on fire of hell, and sets on fire the course of nature; and throws out devouring words, which consume like fire, James 3:6. But rather the punishment of an evil tongue from the Lord is intended, whose sore judgments are often compared to arrows, Deuteronomy 32:23; because they come from above, and bring swift and sudden destruction with them; and are very sharp in the hearts of his enemies; are very severe and cutting, and come with power irresistible, being the arrows of the Almighty, Job 6:4; see Jeremiah 50:9; and these may be compared to "coals of juniper", which are very vehement and strong, and very lasting and durable. Jerom (w) and Isidore (x) say they will last a whole year; and the Midrash on the place reports of two men, who had prepared food with them, and at the end of a year returned and found them burning, and warmed their feet at them. These fitly express the lake of fire and brimstone, the portion of liars; whose fire is very strong, and flames devouring, being kindled by the breath of the Lord of hosts, like a stream of brimstone: and the fire of hell is everlasting; its burnings are everlasting burnings; a worm that dieth not, a fire that is not quenched; the smoke of the torments of which ascend for ever and ever, Isaiah 30:23. The Targum speaks of these arrows as lightnings from above, and of the coals of juniper as kindled in hell below; and they are interpreted of hell in the Talmud (y).

(w) Ad Fabiolam de 42. Mans. tom. 3. fol. 15. I.((x) Origin. l. 17. c. 7. Schindler. col. 1776. (y) T. Bab. Eracin, c. 3. fol. 15. 2.

Psalm 120:3
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