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Singing through the Songs of Degrees, morning by morning, I was struck by 132:9 and 16 and pondered on what it actually (in experience and in practice) means . . . .

... thy priests do put on righteousness ... Psalm 132:9 YLT

,... her priests I clothe with salvation ... Psalm 132:16 YLT

Young's Literal does not draw attention in the first text, 132:9, to the clothing but to the act of 'putting on'. The priests - and there is a 'nation of priests' spoken of in scripture, so - many priests who are subject to one great High Priest, passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, Hebrews 4:14 - these priests 'put on' righteousness.

Which reminds me of the exhortation :

... But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:14 KJV.

Or, as the literal Greek has it :

... but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and of the flesh do not take forethought unto desire. [EGNT/YLT]

God provided skins for Adam and Eve, after they trangressed and after they discovered their unclothed state. The animal is not mentioned, thus I see that the skin is of something not yet nameable, not yet definable.

It is that which is to come.

And what is to come is another humanity than the humanity that failed in Eden.

Thus, put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.

This righteousness is not a legal work, but is of love, the fulfilling (by love) of all law for Paul mentions adultery, killing, stealing, lying, and coveting (including both outward acts but also inward desires) the remedy to which he states is the putting on of the Lord Jesus Christ and the working of love to one's neighbour, which bares no ill.

And therein (by 'putting on' the Lord Jesus Christ) is righteousness provided.

Thus God himself speaks in Psalm 132:16, saying, I will clothe her priests with salvation.

Under the headship of Christ, and under the High Priesthood which is his, the members of his body, the priests under his heavenly administration, is received the 'clothing' of righteousness and salvation.

Or is there another meaning to these two texts in Psalm 132 ?

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  • Cambridge: 16. The correlative of righteousness in Psa 132:9. He will prosper those who minister faithfully. Cp. Isa 61:10. Health in P.B.V. is an archaism for healing, deliverance, salvation. Cp. Psa 67:2. also see Zech 3:3-7
    – Michael16
    May 27 at 11:12
  • Have you answered your own question here?
    – Dottard
    May 28 at 3:32
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    @Dottard I am suggesting an interpretation but accepting there may well be others ; nor do I assert that my own thoughts are the solitary way to view the text. (Yours up-voted by the way +1.)
    – Nigel J
    May 28 at 7:50

2 Answers 2

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Checking this out, I went to the NLT Study Bible notes, which only muddied the waters because it uses neither the word 'righteousness' nor 'salvation' in Psalm 132:9! The NLT is a self-professed "natural - dynamic equivalence" rendering. But I start my answer off by quoting it, and its comment on the meaning, to demonstrate the drastic moving away from a formal - literal equivalence translation once liberties are taken with the Hebrew text.

"May your priests be clothed in godliness; may your loyal servants sing for joy." (NLT Study Bible Ps 132:9)

The notes to this verse claim that "the priests were to exhibit righteousness in their lives". Further, that verses 8 to 10 are a quotation from Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple, as in 2 Chronicles 6:41-42, so I had a look at the NLT's rendering there. The relevant bit reads:

"May your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation; may your loyal servants rejoice in your goodness." (NLT 2 Chron 6:41)

However, the notes to that verse say this was Solomon quoting from Psalm 132:8-10. Yet both texts are related, which might have a bearing on the question you ask. (NLT Study Bible p737)

That led me to the NIV Study Bible notes for Ps. 132:9 which explained:

132:9 clothed with. Beyond their normal priestly garb - may their ministry bear the character of (see Job 29:14; Pr 31:25), i.e. result in. righteousness. Since the corresponding word in v. 16 is "salvation", the same word used by the author of Chronicles when quoting this verse (2Ch 6:41), and since 'righteousness' and 'salvation' are often paralleled (40:10; 51:14; 71:15; 98:2; Isa 54:8; 46:13; 51:5-6; 59:17-18; 61:10; 62:1), the reference is clearly to God's righteousness that brings about the salvation of his people." (NIV Study Bible notes on pp 909-910, 1987 edition)

This leads me to conclude that it is a distortion and a weakening of scripture to have 'godliness' in place of either 'righteousness' or 'salvation' (as in the NLT). But if, as the NIV claims, those two Hebrew words are interchangeable, then Ps 132 verses 9 and 16 must stick to either 'righteousness' or 'salvation'. Further, the NIV point, that "the reference is clearly to God's righteousness that brings about the salvation of his people" is the answer to both your questions: it is God's righteousness and salvation that clothes his people, and only he can put such spiritual 'garments' on his chosen.

However, you also asked "what it actually (in experience and in practice) means". Well, this is a song of the ascents, addressed to God by his priests who are ascending up to worship him in his holy mount. They ask God to clothe them with his righteousness and salvation, which will result in them ever singing for joy (vss. 9 & 16).

The application would be that all Christians, who are all priests in the New Covenant, are on their way up to heavenly mount Zion, to worship eternally in God's holy presence. They can only be on that journey because God has chosen them, cleansed them from all sin and clothed them in his righteousness and salvation. Knowing this, they are on that journey already worshipping God before they actually get to heavenly mount Zion. And despite the tribulations endured along the way, they are filled with joy, nothing stopping them singing God's praises, and upholding his righteousness, and his salvation. That is the experience of, and the habitual practice of all who know the righteousness and the salvation of God.

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  • Gal 3:27 - For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
  • Rom 13:14 - Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
  • Isa 64:6 - Each of us has become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.
  • Rev 19:8 - She was given clothing of fine linen, bright and pure. For the fine linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints.
  • Zech 3:3-5 - Now Joshua was dressed in filthy garments as he stood before the angel. So the angel said to those standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have removed your iniquity, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him, as the angel of the LORD stood by.
  • Isa 61:10 - I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom wears a priestly headdress, as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
  • Ps 132:9, 16 - May Your priests be clothed with righteousness, and Your saints shout for joy. ... I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints will sing out in joy.
  • 2 Chron 6:41 - Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into your resting place, you, and the ark of your strength: let your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let your saints rejoice in goodness.

See also Job 29:14, Isa 11:5, 59:17, Rev 6:11, 7:9, 13, etc.

All these show that clothes were a very common and ancient metaphor for the moral state of a person - to put on the garment of righteousness was to experience conversion to God and a new way of life.

The new garments of the High Priest of the ancient temple also symbolized the purity and righteousness of the One (Jesus as the real High Priest) that the earthly high priest represented.

Thus, righteous clothes represented both the means of salvation, forgiveness, and the new way of life that occurred when those garments were put on (Rev 19:8).

Jesus enlarged upon this well-known metaphor in His parable of the wedding garments in Matt 22:1-14 - one cannot enter heaven without the robe of Christ's righteousness.

Thus, to "put on" the robe of Christ's righteousness is to accept his love, grace and forgiveness, and His miraculous transformation of our lives.

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  • Given your quotes about Joshua, Isaiah (God has clothed me) and how the High Priest had his garments put on him, should not the word 'accept' in your last sentence be better rendered 'receive'? To accept involves a decision to hold out your open hand or to grasp something, whereas if you are the recipient, you receive something from another. Some would say I'm being pedantic here, but the point is subtle whilst also being profound, spiritually speaking.
    – Anne
    Jun 2 at 9:05
  • @Anne - at one level I agree with you. But the reason I chose to use the verb "accept" is because it is possible to refuse the gift.
    – Dottard
    Jun 2 at 9:23

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