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Psalm 125:3 seems strange because the bible reader could wonder why the righteous would ever use the "scepter of wickedness"..."to do wrong". Please read on to find out why I find the biblehub's commentaries to be Unconvincing in regards to exegesis related to Psalm 125:3

Psalm 125:1-4 New American Standard Bible 1995

125 Those who trust in the Lord Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people From this time forth and forever. 3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the [a]land of the righteous, So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong. 4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good And to those who are upright in their hearts.

Psalm 125:1-4 New King James Version

125 Those who trust in the Lord Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the Lord surrounds His people From this time forth and forever. 3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest On the land allotted to the righteous, Lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity. 4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, And to those who are upright in their hearts.

125:1-4 The Westminster Leningrad Codex

125 שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת הַבֹּטְחִ֥ים בַּיהוָ֑ה כְּֽהַר־צִיּ֥וֹן לֹא־יִ֝מּ֗וֹט לְעוֹלָ֥ם יֵשֵֽׁב׃

2 יְֽרוּשָׁלִַ֗ם הָרִים֮ סָבִ֪יב לָ֥הּ וַ֭יהוָה סָבִ֣יב לְעַמּ֑וֹ מֵ֝עַתָּ֗ה וְעַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

3 כִּ֤י לֹ֪א יָנ֡וּחַ שֵׁ֤בֶט הָרֶ֗שַׁע עַל֮ גּוֹרַ֪ל הַֽצַּדִּ֫יקִ֥ים לְמַ֡עַן לֹא־יִשְׁלְח֖וּ הַצַּדִּיקִ֨ים בְּעַוְלָ֬תָה יְדֵיהֶֽם׃

4 הֵיטִ֣יבָה יְ֭הוָה לַטּוֹבִ֑ים וְ֝לִֽישָׁרִ֗ים בְּלִבּוֹתָֽם׃

Here are some of the exegesis from some commentaries on biblehub:

https://biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/125-3.htm


Benson Commentary For the rod of the wicked — Their power and authority; shall not rest — Not continue long; upon the lot of the righteous — Upon the habitation and persons of good men. Lest the righteous put forth their hands, &c. — Lest, through human infirmity, and the great weight or long continuance of their troubles, they should be driven to impatience, or to despair, or to use indirect and sinful courses to relieve themselves.


Matthew Poole's Commentary The rod of the wicked; the power and authority of cruel tyrants. Shall not rest; not continue for ever, nor too long. Upon the lot of the righteous; upon the habitations and persons of good men. Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity; lest through human frailty and the great weight or long continuance of their troubles they should be driven to impatience, or to despair, or to use indirect and sinful courses to relieve themselves.


As I skimmed through the various commentaries in biblehub in regards to Psalm 125:3, it seemed like most of said commentaries were suggesting that oppressive tyrannical rule over righteous people may cause said righteous people to resort to sinful acts in order to rebel against tyrannical rule.

To me, said explanations are Unconvincing. One the reasons is that in the Book of Judges of the Bible, there are numerous occasions when God takes a "Tough Love" disciplinary approach by handing the Israelites over to the the oppressive & tyrannical rule of their enemies when the Israelites fall into sin:

Judges 2:14 New American Standard Bible 1995

14 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies.

Judges 3:12 New American Standard Bible 1995

12 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.

Furthermore, there are many bible passages that emphasize that one must rejoice in suffering:

Colossians 1:24

New American Standard Bible 1995

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I [a]do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking [b]in Christ’s afflictions.

James 1:2-4

New American Standard Bible 1995

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various [a]trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces [b]endurance. 4 And let [c]endurance have its perfect [d]result, so that you may be [e]perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:3-5 New American Standard Bible 1995

3 And not only this, but [a]we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

1 Peter 4:13

New American Standard Bible 1995

13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

Could someone please provide a detailed exegesis that differs from biblehub's commentaries in regards to Psalm 125:3?

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Not so fast - that is not what Ps 125 is saying at all.

Let us begin by stating a simple fact: "scepter of wickedness" only occurs in Ps 125:3; and "scepter of righteousness" only occurs in Ps 45:6. In both cases, the phrase denotes the character of the ruler and thus the type of rule, whether cruel/unjust, or compassionate and just.

The instance in Ps 125:3 about the righteous NOT using the "scepter of wickedness" is simpler than it appears. (IMHO, the ESV is closest to the Hebrew here.)

Ps 125:3 - For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.

This is quintessential Hebrew idiom for saying, the righteous will not be seduced into doing wrong. Ellicott captures this idea well when he says:

(3) Rod.—The imagery of this unusually long verse is peculiar. The “rod of the wicked,” or “of wickedness,” is the heathen sceptre, and the righteous are the Israelites who hold fast to the religion of their fathers. This sceptre now rests—a word expressing the presence of tyranny—upon the Holy Land; but this is not for a continuance. God will not suffer the tyranny to last, lest the righteous should be seduced or forced into connivance with practices which religion unites with patriotism to condemn.

Put another way, the righteous will be divinely protected of the rule of tyranny.

There is an interesting reference here to how this might occur - notice the important phrase, "reach out the hand" - this is likely a reference to a person, when approaching a king to touch the scepter as in the story of Esther 5:2. Thus, we have a picture of the righteous courting the favor of a wicked scepter/rule.

It is precisely this scenario that this verse in Ps 125:3 that God promises to protect the righteous from doing.

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The psalmist is concerned that an evil sovereignty will require righteous people to sin. Examples of how this might happen:

  • A wicked Israelite ruler might wage an unjust war, in which case otherwise good men would be required to kill in an unjust cause. For example, in the time of the kings, several of them made military alliances of which God disapproved. This would result in otherwise righteous soldiers having to wage war against God's will. In the North, worshippers of the LORD might easily refrain from Baal worship, but - because their kings encouraged them - they often sinned (at least this is implied in the text) by attending the shrines at Dan or Bethel rather than making the long trek to Jerusalem.

  • If the psalm was written during the Babylonian exile, the "scepter of wickedness" refers to the long period of Babylonian and Persian rule. For every Daniel who resisted temptation during this time, there were surely others whose righteousness might not persevere under duress. Kosher food would be hard to get and many would face the prospect of either eating forbidden meat or not being able get good nutrition. With no Temple, priests could not carry out the requirements to offer sacrifices and people could not properly observe the holidays. Psalm 137 relates how the LORD's people were required to sing and pretend to be joyful for their captors. Did they sin when they complied?

  • If the psalm is post-exilic, it reflects the anxiety of the community regarding their continued subjection to Persian and later Greek rule. The "scepter of wickedness" had already resulted in there being no anointed king who was approved by God. Although the Temple had been restored, Jews were forced to pay taxes to pagan rulers and support other imperial policies of which God might not approve. There is little historical information on how Jews might be tempted to unrighteous action during the Persian period after the time of Nehemiah. However their experience under Hellenistic rule shows that even the high priest and other supposedly righteous Jews were vulnerable to corruption.

Conclusion: Evil rulers have the power to force good people to make nearly impossible moral choices. For example a ruler may compel soldiers to fight in unjust wars. This did in fact happen in the time of the Israelite kings. During the Exile, pagan rulers (in the Book of Daniel) forced Jews to bow down to idols or face death. After the Exile, Jews had to work to pay taxes to pagan rulers and possibly fight in their armies. In the time of the Maccabees, Hellenization was widespread; and even leading priests did not have the courage to resist the desecration of Jewish law. Scholars are not in agreement as when this psalm was written. However, whether it was early or late, the issue it addresses is the tension between royalty authority - which is normally to be obeyed - and religious conscience. That "the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous" means that, in God's time, the sovereignty of goodness will be restored, and the royal (or state) power will no longer tempt righteous people to do evil.

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