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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 129

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-8

Psalms 129:0

A Song of degrees

          Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth,
May Israel now say:

2     Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth;

Yet they have not prevailed against me.

3     The ploughers ploughed upon my back:

They made long their furrows.

4     The Lord is righteous:

He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

5     Let them all be confounded and turned back

That hate Zion.

6     Let them be as the grass upon the house-tops,

Which withereth afore it groweth up:

7     Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand:

Nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.

8     Neither do they which go by say,

The blessing of the Lord be upon you:

We bless you in the name of the Lord.


Contents and Composition.—The Psalmist recalls (Psalms 129:1-4) the severe oppression which Israel, the servant of the Lord, had repeatedly suffered from his youth, and which is described by the image of physical ill-treatment, as in Isaiah 49:1 f.; Psalms 50:4 f., from which, however, the righteous God granted deliverance. From this he educes a wish (Psalms 129:5-8) that all the enemies of Zion may be consigned to utter ruin.

There is a very close resemblance to Psalms 124:0—Israel’s youth is the sojourn in Egypt (Hosea 2:17; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 23:3). Since that time a long period had passed, full of national troubles and divine deliverances. Just at this time Israel begins to breathe freely after such a visitation, but knows that Zion’s enemies have not disappeared wholly and forever. Hence arises the expression used towards them at the close, with reference to the greeting which in former times used to be given by passers by even to heathen mowers (comp. Ruth 2:4). The period shortly after the return from exile may be regarded as a suitable occasion for the composition.

[Psalms 129:1. The Hebrew word rendered: many a time in E. V., means literally: greatly. It sometimes refers to time, but has no special reference to it. The opinion that most interpreters render it in that sense (Alexander) is incorrect. Gesenius, Ewald, Hupfeld, Delitzsch, Moll, Perowne and many others, give it the more general reference.—J. F. M.]

Psalms 129:2. Yet.גַם is employed here, as in Exodus 16:28; Ecclesiastes 6:7, in the sense of; although or nevertheless (Ewald, § 484 a.). [Hupfeld denies that this sense ever exists, and asserts that it has here as always the sense of: also. He compares Genesis 30:8. He also discusses the question in his Quæstiones in Jobeidos locos vexatos on Genesis 2:19. The meaning of the verse is unaffected by either view.—J. F. M.].

Psalms 129:3. As in Isaiah 51:23; Isaiah 66:12, Israel is compared to a street, and men are represented as walking and riding over his back, so here they are compared to a strip of land, which the ploughman goes over in such a way, that every time he reaches either end he turns his team for the purpose of making a new furrow (Wetzstein in his excursus in Delitzsch, p. 795). Relentless and regardless treatment is better exhibited by this than by the usual explanation by which long furrows are understood to be meant.

Psalms 129:6 ff. The grass upon the roofs which are flat and covered with loose stones or earth (Jahn Bibl. Arch I. 1. 200 f.), Isaiah 37:27 grows up rapidly but soon withers. It is doubtful whether שׁלף means: to draw out, pluck up (most). [Here impersonally: one plucks it up, instead of the passive—J. F. M.], or: to sprout forth in blossom (Aquila, Chald., Calvin, Ewald, Delitzsch.) [In connection with the passage cited in the introduction with regard to the greeting, Psalms 129:8. Delitzsch remarks: “It is the passers-by here who salute the harvesters thus: the blessing of Jehovah be upon you, and (since the following in the mouths of the same persons would be a purposeless excess of courtesy) receive the greeting in return: we bless you, etc. The contrast to this is, that the righteous, joyfully exchanging greetings, will be able to bring in all the harvest they have sown.”—J. F. M.].


As compared with the world the pious are righteous, and may expect, from the righteous Rewarder, deliverance from the power of the enemy.—The ungodly have only the appearance of power and prosperity: after their brief season of bloom comes swift, certain, and awful destruction by God’s judgments.—The Church of God has upon earth to suffer much and severely. But God is and remains her Deliverer from each and every distress.

Starke: As the Church has never been without tribulation, so she has never failed of strength and victory.—The names of the persecutors of God’s people are not written in heaven, but their wickedness and enmity are remembered to their shame.—The Church is and remains a rose among thorns, until the thorny ground of this world is destroyed by fire, and its thistles are cast into hell.—The longer the furrows are drawn, and the deeper the plowshares of suffering sink, the more abundant and precious fruits grow therefrom.—It is the part of faith to praise God’s righteousness in affliction, and so to overcome the offence of the cross.—What is begun without God, or rather against God, ends in wailing.—The sighs and tears of afflicted Zion have already become to many an enemy of truth and godliness, a flood of waters which sweeps away them and their followers.

Frisch: If Zion is God’s inheritance, whoever harms Zion touches God Himself.—Richter: Let it not be an offence unto thee, that the world is hostile to the Israel of God; but ponder in faith the examples in Hebrews 11:0 and especially the example of Christ, of whom suffering Israel was a type.—Guenther: The sword with which God shall cut asunder the bands which persecutors have thrown around His people, has been sharpened from eternity.—Diedrich: The despisers of the Word and the true Church have no sure ground of continued existence. They are like the wild grass upon the roof. For all their achievements are nothing in the light of truth; they are found too light in God’s balances.—Taube: For the lovers of Zion the crown is gleaming beyond the cross, and the harvest of joy is waving beyond the tearful sowing.

[Matt. Henry: The enemies of God’s Church wither of themselves, and stay not till they are rooted out by the judgments of God.—Woe to those who have the prayers of the saints against them!—J. F. M.].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 129". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-129.html. 1857-84.
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