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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Psalms 127

 

 

Verse 1

Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

Psalms 127:1-5.-Except God gives the blessing, man's works cannot have a prosperous issue. The building of the house and the keeping of the city can only be ensured through the Lord (Psalms 127:1-2); so children are a blessing from him (Psalms 127:3-5).

The title "for" or 'of Solomon,' attributing the authorship to that wise monarch, accords with internal evidence. It has no trace of the sadness which pervades the songs of degrees without titles. The individual comes here into prominence, whereas those songs speak more of the nation and, Church in general. Calvin remarks, The theme suits Solomon, who chiefly occupied the domestic civic territory. The main thought corresponds with Solomon's proverb, Proverbs 10:22; Psalms 127:2 accords with Solomon's experience as 'beloved of the Lord,' Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:25). Riches, honour, long life, and wisdom were promised him in 'sleep,' without toil on his part (1 Kings 3:5-13; 1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25). Compare the antitypical reign of the Prince of Peace, Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10; Zechariah 9:10; Psalms 72:3,

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it - literally, 'its builders labour in vain in it.' The juxtaposition of the house and the city in this verse shows that literal building of a house is meant. Perhaps Solomon was at the time engaged in building his own house, as also the house of God, (1 Kings 6:1-38; 1 Kings 7:1-51.)

Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh (but) in vain. From the building of the house, the Psalmist passes to the security of its occupants, and of the whole city which consists of houses and their dwellers. Night watches (cf. Psalms 130:6; Psalms 102:7; Prov. 7:34 ) patrol the well-ordered city, for the sake of securing it against enemies, robbers, disturbances, and fires, as well as announcing the hours (Isa. 20:11-12 ); but all these precautions must be accompanied with a looking up to God for a blessing on the means, or else there is no real blessing or safety.


Verse 2

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.

It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows. Here he turns round to these spoken of in Psalms 127:1, and by a spirited apostrophe addresses worldly men. "To sit up late" - namely, toiling; answering to "rise up early" for toil. Compare Isaiah 5:11; also Solomon's proverb, Proverbs 31:15, as to the God-fearing good wife. But the sitting is rather in contrast to the rising up to toil: it expresses resting, as opposed to toiling. So Psalms 139:2; Lamentations 3:63; Deuteronomy 6:7. Sitting at work was unusual in the less artificial modes of life which prevailed in Israel, as compared with our European and modern ways. The Hebrew is, 'It is vain for you being in the morning to rise, and being late to sit.' So the Syriac version, 'early, to rise, and late to sit.' Translate, therefore, 'and to be late in sitting' down - i:e., resting. So Gejer. "The bread of sorrows" is bread eaten amidst hard labours, "in the sweat of the brow" (Genesis 3:17; Genesis 3:19).

(For) so he giveth his beloved sleep. "So" means, agreeably to that, as in Job 9:35. So many good things as ye seek to secure by ceaseless toil and care, God gives to those whom He loves, and who love Him, as it were in sleep (as He gave them to Solomon, 1 Kings 3:5-13) - i:e., without "sorrows" or exceeding toil (Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:34). So Hengstenberg. In this translation what God gives to His beloved ones (Psalms 60:5) is not, as the English version, "sleep," but the gain which others vainly seek by mere labour, without dependence on God's blessing. This, in the main, is the right view, as the context proves. But the absence of 'in' (in the Hebrew) before "sleep" and the ancient versions, support the English version, only explain it-While the godless are late in snaring down - i:e., resting, and with all their toil fail to realize lasting wealth because they seek it independently of God; on the contrary, God gives to His beloved ones sleep undisturbed by cares, and with the sleep the blessing of wealth in a way they know not how. The latter is to be understood as implied, though not expressed. Compare Mark 4:27. It is not industry that is discouraged, but anxious labour without believing dependence on God, as contrasted with that labour which, when its day's work is past, leaves the result with God, and so can resign itself to balmy sleep, 'tired nature's kind restorer,' the gift of God to His beloved ones especially. The sleep of 'the sluggard' is not commended here, or elsewhere in Scripture. beloved ones especially. The sleep of 'the sluggard' is not commended here, or elsewhere in Scripture. Compare Proverbs 6:9-10; Proverbs 31:15-27.


Verse 3

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

Lo - calling attention to a leading instance of the principle that all depends on God's blessing-namely, children.

Children are an heritage of the Lord - Genesis 33:5; Genesis 48:9; Joshua 24:4. As fathers bequeath inheritances to their children (Proverbs 19:14), so God gives to His beloved sons children as their "heritage." First, he gives a house, security, and competent means (Psalms 127:1-2); then children to enjoy them with and after their parents.

And the fruit of the womb is his reward - (Genesis 30:2; Deuteronomy 7:13.) "Reward," or hire, refers to Genesis 30:18, where Leah calls her son Issachar - i:e., a hire, or reward-because she regarded him as the reward given her by God for her disinterestedness in giving her maiden to her husband.


Verse 4

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth - i:e., sons begotten in youth, when the father is in full strength (Genesis 49:3 : cf. Isaiah 54:6). "Children of the youth" come then to the height of their manhood when the parents are declining in strength and need protection. They are like arrows-a defense against the enemies of their parents. The Chinese proverb says, 'When a son is born into a family, a bow and arrow are flung up at the gate' - i:e., a new protector is given to the family.


Verse 5

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate - they shall not suffer the shame of defeat, but shall prevail, through the advocacy of their sons, when they have a lawsuit with adversaries in the gate - i:e., the place of justice. The transition from "arrows" and a "quiver" to a court of justice ("the gate," the place of concourse and of judicial proceedings: cf. Psalms 69:12) implies that whether in war or in trials at law, the energies of sons prove a strong defense to aged parents. Contrast Job 5:4, 'His children are crushed in the gate,' the once prosperous but wicked parent being dead. Others, as margin, translate [ dibeer (Hebrew #8675)], 'for they shall destroy their enemies in the gate.' Compare 2 Chronicles 22:10; Psalms 18:47, where the same Hebrew is translated, 'subdueth,' or 'destroyeth,' margin. This keeps up the image of war, implied by the "arrows." But the English version is the more common sense of the Hebrew. Compare with the description of public and private blessing through dependence on the Lord, Deuteronomy 28:4-8.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 127:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-127.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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