May 30, 2012

Lift Your Eyes to the Hills

Category: Bible - NT - Matthew,Bible - OT - Psalms :: Permalink

Is there an allusion to Psalm 121 in Matthew 17?

Matthew has just told us about Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. Up on the mountain, Jesus is shining “as white as light” and a “bright cloud” overshadows them, which ought to make us wonder if that light was visible to those down below. But when Jesus and his three mighty men come down the mountain into the dark world below, they find a demon-possessed boy. That’s what Mark tells us. But Matthew tells us that the boy was moonstruck. I’m not entirely sure what that means and I’m not persuaded that it can simply be identified with epilepsy, though it seems similar. But what’s important here is that the word implies a striking by the moon.

Now consider Psalm 121, which begins:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
  From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
  Who made heaven and earth.

In Matthew’s Gospel, who is on the hills? Jesus is, where he shines with glory. He is the one from whom help comes for those down below, and they ought to be expecting it, though as the story shows they are not. Interestingly, the man who comes to Jesus for help calls him “Lord.”

The psalm goes on:

The sun shall not strike you by day,
  Nor the moon by night.

Here we have, it seems, exactly what the boy was suffering from: he was struck by the moon. But his father calls upon the Lord, who was on the hills, and his son is rescued.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:11 pm | Discuss (0)

Leave a Reply