I Lift Up My Eyes to You (Psalm 123)

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Psalm 123 is a short but profound passage within the Songs of Ascents, which were songs sung by pilgrims as they made their journey to Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals. This psalm, specifically, is a prayer for mercy, expressing deep dependence on God.

The text is a plea for God's mercy upon the community. The psalmist begins by lifting eyes to God, who is enthroned in the heavens, signifying a posture of prayer and supplication. This act of looking upwards to God is a physical manifestation of the soul's reliance on the Divine. The metaphor of servants looking to the hand of their master, or a maid to the hand of her mistress, is employed to illustrate the psalmist's total dependence on God for favor and relief.

The latter part of the psalm shifts to a request for mercy, as the psalmist describes how the community has been the object of contempt and scorn from the arrogant and the proud (גֵּאִים [ge'im]). This plea for mercy is both urgent and humble, acknowledging God's sovereignty and the community's vulnerable position.


Word Meaning
שִׁיר song
הַ definite article
מַעֲלָה ascent, step, stair
אֶל towards
אַתָּה you (m. sg.)
נשׂא lift, carry
אֵת accusative
עַיִן spring; eye; look
אֲנִי I
ישׁב sit, sit down, dwell, be inhabited

Biblical text

123:1שִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת אֵ֭לֶיךָ נָשָׂ֣אתִי אֶת־עֵינַ֑י הַ֝יֹּשְׁבִ֗י בַּשָּׁמָֽיִם׃2הִנֵּ֨ה כְעֵינֵ֪י עֲבָדִ֡ים אֶל־יַ֤ד אֲֽדוֹנֵיהֶ֗ם כְּעֵינֵ֣י שִׁפְחָה֮ אֶל־יַ֪ד גְּבִ֫רְתָּ֥הּ כֵּ֣ן עֵ֭ינֵינוּ אֶל־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ עַ֝֗ד שֶׁיְּחָנֵּֽנוּ׃3חָנֵּ֣נוּ יְהוָ֣ה חָנֵּ֑נוּ כִּֽי־רַ֝֗ב שָׂבַ֥עְנוּ בֽוּז׃4רַבַּת֮ שָֽׂבְעָה־לָּ֪הּ נַ֫פְשֵׁ֥נוּ הַלַּ֥עַג הַשַּׁאֲנַנִּ֑ים הַ֝בּ֗וּז לִגְאֵ֥יוֹנִֽים׃