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A Song of degrees.
The psalm is divided into three parts. Psalms 129:1-3 are a retrospect of Israel’s affliction from his youth; Psalms 129:4 is a grateful acknowledgment of deliverances; Psalms 129:5-8 contain an anathema upon the haters of Zion. The religion of Moses was a reproof of the heathen idolatry, which drew down upon the Hebrew people the enmity and persecution of the nations. Situated, as they were, nearly central to the great nations of antiquity, and of all the fierce political struggles for supremacy among the mighty monarchies, God alone could preserve them alive. The retrospect of these sufferings reaches back to Egypt. The poet surveys them from the standpoint of recent deliverance, (Psalms 129:4,) which determines the date later than the decree of Cyrus, (Ezra 1:1-4,) (for it must be considered as postexilic,) and with a tone of sadness as not being yet free from the power of living enemies, whom he execrates, which probably points to the hostility of the Samaritans, Ezra 4:0. The moan of Israel, now aged, over the hardships of life, is like that of Jacob before Pharaoh, Genesis 47:9
1. From my youth From the days of Israel’s abode in Egypt. So Hosea 2:15; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 2:2
2. Not prevailed Because God was on their side. See Psalms 124:1, etc. The existence of a Church which is in antagonism with all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” standing alone and without worldly support or sympathy, hated and persecuted as the reprover of sin, yet unconquered, is the standing miracle of the ages.
3. Ploughed upon my back In Psalms 66:11-12 and Isaiah 51:23, the figure of riding over the prostrate bodies of the people is used, which is here exchanged for ploughing furrows upon their backs, in both which the lowest degree of degradation and helpless misery is expressed.
Made long their furrows Which, as opposed to short furrows, would seem to indicate an excess, or prolongation, of cruelty. Short furrows, not exceeding about two hundred feet, according to Wetzstein, was, and is now, the custom in Arab tillage. The word for “furrow” occurs elsewhere only in 1 Samuel 14:14, where the Hebrew “half a furrow, a yoke of land,” means half the landstrip “which a yoke of oxen could plough in a day.” In the psalm before us, the word is in the plural. The back is here conceived to be a field divided up into several מענית , or landstrips for ploughing, but the preterit of the verbs indicates that the psalmist is speaking of miseries from which the people had now escaped.
4. The Lord is righteous In fulfilling his promises to his people, and rendering deserved retribution upon their persecutors. See Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2.
Cut asunder the cords Resuming the figure of ploughing, as an image for inflicting misery, (Psalms 129:3,) the cutting the cords would mean the severing the cords which connect the yoke to the plough; or it may refer to the cords by which captives were bound. In either case, it denotes that God had rendered futile for evil all the devices and boasted power of his enemies.
5. That hate Zion This indicates that Zion still had living enemies, though their chief strength had been neutralized, and deliverance attained. See the introduction.
6. Grass upon the housetops Which never comes to maturity for want of root and moisture, and hence is proverbially worthless. “To obtain a good view of the Tyropean my guide took me to the housetop on the brow of Zion, and the grass which had grown over the roof during the rainy season was now entirely withered and perfectly dry.” Thomson. Roofs of houses in Palestine are nearly flat, sloping slightly toward the centre, and covered with small stones and earth. “Grass, and even wild flowers, are apt to grow upon them in winter, and as their roots cannot sink deep into the hard soil, a few days of warm sunshine suffice to dry them up.” Van Lennep.
8. They which go by say It was customary, in passing a harvest field, to say to the harvesters, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you,” to which the latter responded as in Ruth 2:4. But as this could not be said to persons who were gathering withered grass upon the housetops, as the women often did, and still do, to kindle the fire, so neither would men bless, in the name of the Lord, the haters of Zion who were doomed to perish.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 129". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20