Psalm 133 A song of ascents. Of David. (1) How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! (2) It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down on the collar of his robe. (3) It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. NIV
Psalm 133 is number fourteen of fifteen psalms referred to as Song of Ascents, Song of Degrees, Song of Steps, Pilgrim Psalms, or Gradual Psalms. Psalm 133 is also one of four Song of Ascents signed by David.
Traditionally these songs were sung by Jewish pilgrims as they travelled to Jerusalem for the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament.
Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 NIV
Families travelled in big groups of other families three times a year to Jerusalem to worship God and bring their offerings. And as they approached the city, climbed the hill, or even the steps up to the temple, they would sing these fifteen psalms.
This particular song is titled, When Brothers Dwell in Unity (ESV); Blessed Unity of the People of God (NKJV); The Excellency of Brotherly Unity (NASB); and The Love of God’s People (ICB) among others.
There is no certain indication as to when this song was written by David. But some scholars see the gathering of the people and the unity among tribes as an indication that David wrote it around the time he was crowned king (approx. 1007 BC). During this time, all tribes would’ve gathered in Hebron for his anointing. And there were some tribes didn’t get along or see eye to eye, but they would’ve come to the ceremony anyway. (2 Samuel 5:1-4)
This psalm is a brief encomium on unity and brotherly love, which, if we did not see the miseries of discord among men, we should think needless; but we cannot say too much, it were well if we could say enough, to persuade people to live together in peace.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 NLT
Simple and true. A peaceful home. A need of the heart.
The Hebrew word used here is translated as “harmony” or “unity” in most Bible translations.
In English, harmony has a number of definitions, but for in this text it means, “the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.”
Unity is defined as “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” Oxford-American Dictionary
Harmony amongst God’s people is “wonderful” and “pleasant.” And this reflects God’s heart. In John’s recording of the Gospels, Jesus prayed the following words to His Father in heaven:
"I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one- as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:20-21 NLT
Jesus prayed to His Father, asking that those who believe in Him would be one, united, living in harmony as brothers and sisters. He prayed that they would find unity with each other and unity with believers who have gone before. And a unity that is so close that it resembles the relationship between Father and Son.
Despite our differences, we are called to love each other with a unity like that of the Father and the Son. Because Jesus said so, and He even prayed this would be so. And it’s written down in the Bible. Jesus actually prayed for us to get along!
Brothers and sisters, this doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to evil or allow bad things to go undiscussed. If your brother was walking off a cliff, you would stop him. At least to the best of your ability. We need to love our brothers and sisters in Christ so much that in sharing Truth or in guiding back to the Truth we do so with great love. Love that only comes from Jesus.
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron's head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Psalm 133:2 NLT
Oil? On someone’s head? Oily beards and messy robes sound weird to me. So let’s research what this would have meant for people during David’s time.
Harmony/unity among us is like the anointing oil God used to pour over Aaron’s head! That oil was special, and God is very specific about what it is made of, how much is used, and what it is used for (read Exodus 30:22-29).
"Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, 'This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on anyone else's body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from the people." Exodus 30:30-33 NIV
This oil was special. And when it was poured upon priests of the time it was as if God was pouring it from heaven to sanctify and purify them Himself. It was like the love of God, His wisdom, and His mercy was given to these men through this process of anointing with oil.
And David says: when we all get along, brother and sister, our harmony and unity is like this beautiful cleansing practice of anointing God’s high priests with oil.
And not just on the head. But also dripping down the beard and to the collar or even to the edge of the robe (scholars are uncertain if the Hebrew word used here means collar or bottom of the robe). Sounds messy! But also, expensive. Important. Set apart. An honor. Chosen.
David was anointed three times, so he knew its power and the honor it was coming from the Lord. (1 Samuel 16:13, 2 Samuel 2:4, 2 Samuel 5:3)
When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. 2 Samuel 5:3-5 NIV
To all of Israel, and especially to David, the anointing of oil on head, beard, and robe was something significant.
What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord’s high priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his head the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron’s head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting. Psalm 133:3 NLT
A descriptive picture of the restoring and strengthening of God’s people, united and living in harmony. As dew that falls upon the desert. As special oil runs down one’s beard and collar. So are the blessings from the Father to those who seek harmony and peace among each other.
Under Saul, the Israelites had been divided. Now, the people came together to celebrate God’s chosen king, anointed and chosen by the Father. Bringing peace to the people once again.
Mt. Hermon is the highest peak on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the mountain range straddles the Lebanon-Syria border. Part of the southern slope resides in Israeli controlled Golan Heights. (www.britannica.com)
King David used a second word picture to show how wonderful unity is among the people of God. It is also like the rich dew that covers Mount Hermon, making it green and moist. It is a distinct contrast to the dry wilderness found in other parts of Israel. Unity among God’s people makes life thriving and healthy.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
The gift of the Father is life everlasting in His presence. A place with no pain or tears or suffering. A place of peace and harmony. His command is that His children work toward living in unity now. And this harmony amongst brothers and sisters will bring us peace and joy and blessings while we complete our work still to be done here on earth.
According to John’s account in the Gospels on the night Jesus was betrayed, He explained this very thing to His disciples. Let us close our study of Psalm 133 with a portion of His prayer. The prayer that He prayed for you and for me and all our brothers and sisters that have gone before and are yet to come.
May the words of Jesus, who loves more than His own life, bring you peace today:
"Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one- as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. "I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. "Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! "O righteous Father, the world doesn't know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them." John 17:13-26 NLT
Father in heaven, we are in awe of you, and sometimes all we say is thank you.