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Psalm 121 is the 121st psalm of the Book of Psalms. The beginning in the English, in the King James Version, is "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 120 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Levavi oculos meos in montes".[1] It is one of 15 psalms categorized as Song of Ascents (Shir Hama'alot), although unlike the others, it begins, Shir LaMa'alot (A song to the ascents).

Psalm 121
Psalm 121.jpg
Looking to the mountains is the opening thought of Psalm 121
BookBook of Psalms
Christian Bible partOld Testament
Order in the Christian part19
The headstone of the English botanist, Joan Margaret Legge in the Valley of Flowers in the Himalaya, quoting the first verse of Psalm 121

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant liturgies. It has been set to music in several languages. Felix Mendelssohn included e trio setting in his three times. Leonard Bernstein uses the psalm in his Mass.


Biblical usesEdit

As a song of ascent it is recognized that this psalm was sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. At the beginning of the pilgrimage, in the mountainous region of the Judean Hills, the pilgrim makes sure the Lord's help. The one who trusts in the Lord is certain that He will bring him protection day and night. Prayer moves from the first to the second person in verse 3, and even takes the form of a blessing in verses 7 and 8. This will conclude the prayer of different singers by the prospect of change.


Protestant ChristianityEdit

Psalm 121 has the Latin incipit, Levavi oculus. In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, it is prescribed for use on day 27 of each month, at Morning Prayer.[6] The first verse is frequently quoted on monuments and memorials commemorating those inspired by mountains or hills. A well known example is a stained glass window in Church of St Olaf, Wasdale in the English Lake District National Park, which quotes Psalm 121 as a memorial to members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who were killed in the First World War.[7]Spurgeon called it a soldier's song as well as a traveller's hymn[8] while Livingstone read the Psalm with his family dockside on his leaving for Africa.[9]

Catholic ChurchEdit

Around 530, St. Benedict of Nursia chose this Psalm for the third office during the week, specifically from Tuesday until Saturday between Psalm 120 (119) and Psalm 122 (121). Indeed, attributing Psalm 119 (118), whichever is longer, to the services on Sunday and Monday, he structured offices of the week with nine suivants[10] psalms. In the Liturgy of Hours today, Psalm 121 is recited Vespers Friday of the second week. In the liturgy of the Word, it took the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, year C. It is during this period that the Church prays for refugees.[11]


The motto of The University of Calgary, "Mo shuile togam suas" (Scots Gaelic; in English: "I will lift up my eyes"), is derived from Psalm 121.[13]

Musical settingsEdit

Latin inscription of Psalm 121 on the pediment of the Dannenwalde Manor house, Germany

Musical settings for the Latin text have been composed by Orlando di Lasso, Hans Leo Hassler, and Herbert Howells amongst others.

Settings composed for the English text include John Clarke-Whitfeld, Charles Villiers Stanford, Henry Walford Davies,and Imant Raminsh.[14]

Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály composed his Geneva Ps CXXI (mixed chorus a cappella) for the Hungarian translation.[15]

Felix Mendelssohn composed the famous "Hebe deine Auge auf" as a trio of his oratorio Elijah, Op. 70, in 1846. Heinrich Schütz created a version for four voices and basso continuo (SWV 31).

The setting by William McKie was sung at the wedding of Princess Margaret in 1960 and at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002.[16]

Israeli Hasidic singer-songwriter Yosef Karduner composed a popular Hebrew version of Psalm 121, Shir LaMa'alot (2000), which has been covered by many Israeli artists[17] and is a staple amongst synagogue youth groups in Israel and Canada.[18]

Antonín Dvořák set verses 1-4 in Czech to music in his Biblical Songs (1894).

Leonard Bernstein uses the psalm in his Mass in the second movement in 1971.


  1. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 120 (121) Archived 2017-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur, page 530.
  3. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur, page 295.
  4. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur, page 221.
  5. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur, page 293.
  6. ^ a b "The Book of Common Prayer – The Psalms of David – Day 27. Morning Prayer". The Archbishops' Council. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  7. ^ "Wasdale – St Olaf's Church". Visit Cumbria. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  8. ^ Psalm 121 Archived 2015-10-25 at the Wayback Machine @spurgons commentary.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Règle de saint Benoît, traduction par Prosper Guéranger, (Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes, 2007), p. 46.
  11. ^ The main cycle of liturgical prayers takes place over four weeks.
  12. ^ "Latin Vulgate (Clementine) - Book Of Psalms - Psalm 120". Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  13. ^ "Motto matters". Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Psalm 121". Choral Public Domain Library. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother: Full text of the service held at Westminster Abbey". Guardian News and Media Limited. 9 April 2002.
  17. ^ "קרדונר מעדיף שיר מורכב - ודיבור פשוט" [Karduner Prefers a Complex Song – "Simple Talk"]. Ynetnews (in Hebrew). 30 October 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  18. ^ Rotem, Tal (28 July 2008). "Breslev's Sweet Singer". Retrieved 31 October 2015.

External linksEdit