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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 129

Psalms 129

Numerous and severe oppressions have come upon Israel, but the Lord has delivered his people out of them all, Psalms 129:1-4. From what has been done, faith concludes, in Psalms 129:5-8, regarding what will be done; however proudly Israel’s enemies may shine at present, their end is destruction.

As the two preceding Psalms are ruled wholly by the number three, so this Psalm, and the next one also, is ruled by the number four: two parts, each of four verses, which are again combined as pairs.

The Psalm suits perfectly well to the time to which all the nameless pilgrim-songs belong, the period after the return from the exile. At that time the experience related in Psalms 129:1-4, was far richer than formerly; the youth of the people, according to Psalms 129:1-2, was long past and gone; and the intermediate position between the deliverance already obtained, and the still existing oppression, corresponds exactly to the situation of Israel at the period in question. Still it were too much to affirm that the Psalm, viewed merely by itself, must of necessity belong to this period.

Verses 1-4

Ver. 1. A Song of the Pilgrimages. They have often oppressed me from my youth, so says Israel. Ver. 2. They have often oppressed me from my youth, but they have not prevailed over me. Ver. 3. Upon my back plowed plovers, drew long their furrows. Ver. 4. The Lord is righteous, cuts away the cords of the wicked. רבת in Psalms 129:1, as in Psalms 123:4, Psalms 120:6. The youth of Israel was spent in Egypt, comp. Hosea 2:17, Jeremiah 2:2, Jeremiah 22:21, Ezekiel 23:3. Says Israel, comp. Psalms 124:1, Psalms 118:2.

The repetition in Psalms 129:2, serves the purpose of connecting the oppression and the deliverance immediately with each other. The plowers are named in Psalms 129:3, because, as the plough the earth, so the whip tears up the back. Long furrows = long stripes and wounds. For מענות plur. of םאנה furrow, 1 Samuel 14:14, the Masorites would, without just cause, read the nowhere else occurring םאנית . The ל is not the sign of the accus., but האריךְ? is properly to appoint length.

The redemption of Israel is derived in Psalms 129:4 from the righteousness of God, who gives to every one his own, to the righteous deliverance. Viewed in regard to its kernel, Israel stood to the heathen world, which was hostile to it, in the relation of the righteous to the wicked. The cords, according to Psalms 2:3, are those with which Israel was bound, and mark the hostile supremacy, the sceptre of maliciousness in Psalms 125:3. According to the others, it is the image of the preceding verse which is carried out here. They understand by עבות the plough-cords. The enemies are disposed to continue the plowing onwards; then God suddenly cuts asunder the cords of the plough, and thereby separates the cattle from the plough. But the plough-cords would have required to be more exactly described, and the exposition has a forced character.

Verses 5-8

Ver. 5 They shall be ashamed and turned back all who hate Zion. Ver. 6. They shall be as the grass of house-tops, which withers before it is pulled up. Ver. 7. With which the shearer fills not his hand, nor the binder of sheaves his arm. Ver. 8. And the passers by do not say: The blessing of the Lord be upon you, we bless you in the name of the Lord

The fut. in Psalms 129:5-6 may either be taken as a wish, or as expressive of hope and confidence. The distinction is unessential; for the wish also would have sprung from the ground of confidence. Lampe: “From the past he passes into the future, because this is the tendency of faith, that it may learn the faithfulness of God from his former ways.”

The expression, grass of the house-tops, in Psalms 129:6, is borrowed from Isaiah 37:27, where it already occurs of the enemies of the Lord and of his people. Their past prosperity is suitably marked by a comparison with the grass, which on the flat roofs of the oriental houses can easily take root, but, having no depth of soil, must soon wither. It is a proof of living faith, that the poor little flock can behold the world under this image, even when it is shining in its glory. שלף is used impers. Before it is pulled up, as to meaning, corresponds to: they shall be taken away without hands, in Job 34:20, and the expression: without hands, in Daniel 2:34.

Psalms 129:7-8 only serve to complete the image of the despicableness of the grass of the house tops, which was to be henceforth consecrated as an emblem of the nothingness of the enemies of the kingdom of God, and to place it vividly before the eye. In Psalms 129:8 we have the customary salutation, with which the passers by greeted the shearers, or there are here united together two standing forms of the same. Of greeting and greeting back again, comp. Ruth 2:4, we must certainly not think; for the whole is put into the mouth of those who pass by.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 129". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-129.html.