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Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) reads as follows:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Why did the author look at the mountains? Would they ordinarily be seen as a potential source of help (e.g. a natural protection against military invasion, a place where foreign reinforcements would be likely to come from, etc.)? Is his point "normally the mountains would be a source of help, but the actual ultimate source of help is the Lord, who made the mountains in the first place?"

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  • Yes, I agree with your own interpretation; that the psalmist lifts up his eyes to (naturally sufficient) elevated heights, but finds a need to look further - to the Lord who made heaven and earth.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 2, 2018 at 21:12
  • A divergent interpretation has become popular recently: that looking to the mountains was to find help from Asherah and other gods; mbcpathway.com/2018/03/26/i-lift-up-my-eyes-to-the-hills for example.
    – fumanchu
    Oct 2, 2018 at 22:07
  • @fumanchu And where is the evidence for that supposition ?
    – Nigel J
    Oct 3, 2018 at 3:23
  • In the same Encyclopedia of the Universe that yours is. It's all armchair theology.
    – fumanchu
    Oct 3, 2018 at 15:55
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    In various religions, heaven is considered the abode of (the) God(s), and the peaks of mountains reach up to the heavens. Thus, in Greek paganism, for instance, there is Mount Olympus; in the Bible, we have altars (both pagan and monotheistic) build in high places (the very word altar means high place), the most important of which was the Temple in Jerusalem, itself a city situated at a high altitude. The very expression high place(s) appears 120 times in 110 verses in the King James Version. Also, God is called the Most High many times in Scripture.
    – Lucian
    Oct 4, 2018 at 10:18

2 Answers 2

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All of verse 1 poses a question. YLT translates Psalms 121:1 like this:

I lift up mine eyes unto the hills, Whence doth my help come?

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That is one sentence in Hebrew, and that sentence is a question. I translate it like this:

Am I lifting my eyes to the hills[?] From where comes my help?

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And then verse 2 and the rest of the psalm answer the question:

[Am I lifting my eyes to the hills[?] From where comes my help?]

[No, of course not.] My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

[And the rest of the psalm reiterates this notion]

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It may be that the pilgrim looked up to the hills because the hills were a source of potential danger from gangs of marauders. If the pilgrim is returning to Jerusalem from the captivity, this makes sense for bandits looked for easy prey. Military folk learn to do this with their head on a swivel because the enemy preferred to have high ground from which to attack those below. When the Psalmist looks to the hills with anxiety, he quiets his heart with the thought that "my help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. See: New Bible Commentary, J.A. Moyer

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