A Song of degrees.
The outbursting of new joy, and the allusions and direct statement of Psalms 126:1, decide this psalm to be one of the first echoes responsive to the decree of Cyrus (Ezekiel 1:1-4) which awoke in the hearts of the exiles. It is a beautiful commemoration, not of that decree only, but of the faithfulness of God, and the hope of all his sorrowing ones in all ages, Psalms 126:5-6. It is a companion with Psalms 85, which seems to date a little later, and is to be contrasted with Psalms 79, 137. The psalm divides itself into two strophes: Psalms 126:1-3, a thankful acknowledgment of the great deliverance granted; Psalms 126:4-6, a prayer and hope that what is thus auspiciously begun may be brought forth to completion. See note on Psalms 126:4
1.Turned’ the captivity—An obscure form of speech. In the common Hebrew text, When the Lord returned home the returning ones, or, the restoration, deriving , (sheebath,) rendered “captivity,” from , (shobh,) to return. But the Septuagint reads , and the Vulgate captivitatem, as if they had a text before them which read , (shebeeth,) or , (shebooth,) “captivity,” (as in Psalms 126:4,) from the root , (shabah,) to take, or lead away, captive. In this latter sense, also, the Syriac and Targum agree, and the sense of the text evidently requires it. By comparing the Keri (Hebrew marginal readings) in various places, it also appears that the terms are interchangeable, or that the latter is to be preferred, as in our common English text. See Psalms 126:4, and the fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 30:2-3; Jeremiah 29:14; Ezekiel 16:53.
Like them that dream—The announcement of freedom seemed too joyful to be real. As if they would say, We could hardly believe our senses. We were delirious with delight. See Acts 12:9
2.Said they among the heathen—So astonishing was the decree of Cyrus, (Ezra 1:1-4,) that the Gentile nations spoke of it as an act above the level of humanity, and ascribed it directly to Jehovah, the Hebrews’ God, which, in the next verse, they repeat and accept with gladness, as true. The allusion to the common remark upon the event by “the heathen,” implies a friendliness and good will on their part toward the Jews at the time of their departure. This was a fact in the reign of Cyrus, with whom they were in honour; and afterward in the reign of Darius Hystaspes; and the same of the Egyptians toward Israel at the time of the exodus.
Exodus 11:3; Exodus 12:36
4.Turn again our captivity—The work of returning to their native land from all the parts whither they had been scattered was not accomplished at once. It had now begun gloriously, but was not completed. It was nearly a hundred years from the return of the first caravan, under Zerubbabel, (Ezra 2:1-2,) till that under Nehemiah. Nehemiah 2:5-11.
As the streams in the south—As the brooks in the Negeb, or parched country— the country of Arabia Petrea, called also “the South,” (Isaiah 21:1,) and often. Here the streams, which dry up in summer, (Job 6:15-20,) rise rapidly in the rainy season. In the region of Sinai, says Palmer, “a single thunderstorm, with a heavy shower of rain falling on the naked granite mountains, will be sufficient to convert a dry and level valley into a roaring river in a few short hours.” Thus the pious Jew prayed that the return of the exiles might be immediate, copious, and refreshing. “The poet proceeds from the idea that the Holy Land yearns after an abundant, re-animating influx of population, as the Negeb thirsts for the rain-water streams.”—Delitzsch.
5, 6.Long years of delay, vexation, and suffering, occasioned by the hostile people adjoining the country of the Jews, occasioned depression and sorrow. The work of reconstruction was “great,” (Nehemiah 6:3,) at best, and called for self-denial, courage, fortitude, and faith. But their enemies aggravated it a hundredfold. So struggles the Church of Christ in the earth, not only against natural infirmity and disability, but the hostile world. The closing verses are the language of strong faith and hope grounded in the word of God.
Sow in tears—Often known in the East from scarcity of seed in famine; from perils of robbers, (as Job 1:14-15,) being often required to go to their fields, six or eight miles from home, armed; from painful labour and poverty; from fear of losing the crop, their only hope; from lack of rain, or from untimely rain. See note on Psalms 104:23.
Bearing precious seed—Literally, Carrying a basket, or sack, of the seed. No such word as “precious” is in the original, and meshek, (English version, “precious,”) which means to draw out, must denote the act of drawing out the “seed” from the vessel, or, by metonomy, the vessel itself from which it is drawn out. In Amos 9:13, the verb is rendered soweth.
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing—Literally, Coming, he shall come with shouting. The form is intensive for, he shall surely come. The result is sure. The antitheses of going, coming; sowing, reaping; weeping, shouting; seed, sheaves; the implied doubt and anxiety in sowing, and the certainty of reaping, are exceedingly elegant and forcible.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 126". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany