Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
Psalms 127:1

A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Blessing;   Prosperity;   Works;   Thompson Chain Reference - Dependence;   Human;   Watchmen;   Weakness, Human;   Weakness-Power;   The Topic Concordance - Alertness;   Labor;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Cities;   Protection;   Providence of God, the;   Watchmen;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - City;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Building;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Watches of the Night;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Psalms, Book of;   Vain;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - City;   Hallel;   Psalms;   Solomon;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Degrees;   Psalms the book of;   Temple;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Build;   Watchman;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Crime;   Psalms, Book of;   Solomon;   Watchman;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ammi;   Humility;  
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for March 9;  

Clarke's Commentary

The Hebrew, Chaldee, and Vulgate attribute this Psalm to Solomon. The Syriac says it is "A Psalm of David concerning Solomon; and that it was spoken also concerning Haggai and Zechariah, who forwarded the building of the temple." The Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon have no title, but simply "A Psalm of Degrees." It was most likely composed for the building of the second temple, under Nehemiah, and by some prophet of that time.

Verse Psalms 127:1. Except the Lord build the house — To build a house is taken in three different senses in the sacred writings.

1. To build the temple of the Lord, which was called הבית habbeith, the house, by way of eminence.

2. To build any ordinary house, or place of dwelling.

3. To have a numerous offspring.

In this sense it is supposed to be spoken concerning the Egyptian midwives; that because they feared the Lord, therefore he built them houses. See the note on Exodus 1:21. But, however, the above passage may be interpreted, it is a fact that בן ben, a son, and בת bath, a daughter, and בית beith, a house, come from the same root בנה banah, to build; because sons and daughters build up a household, or constitute a family, as much and as really as stones and timber constitute a building. Now it is true that unless the good hand of God be upon us we cannot prosperously build a place of worship for his name. Unless we have his blessing, a dwelling-house cannot be comfortably erected. And if his blessing be not on our children, the house (the family) may be built up, but instead of its being the house of God, it will be the synagogue of Satan. All marriages that are not under God's blessing will be a private and public curse. This we see every day.

Except the Lord keep the city — When the returned Jews began to restore the walls of Jerusalem, and rebuild the city, Sanballat, Tobiah, and others formed plots to prevent it. Nehemiah, being informed of this, set up proper watches and guards. The enemy, finding this, gathered themselves together, and determined to fall upon them at once, and cut them all off. Nehemiah, having gained intelligence of this also, armed his people, and placed them behind the wall. Sanballat and his company, finding that the Jews were prepared for resistance, abandoned their project; and Nehemiah, to prevent surprises of this kind, kept one-half of the people always under arms, while the other half was employed in the work. To this the psalmist alludes; and in effect says, Though you should watch constantly, guard every place, and keep on your armour ready to repel every attack, yet remember the success of all depends upon the presence and blessing of God. While, therefore, ye are not slothful in business, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; for there is no success either in spiritual or secular undertakings but in consequence of the benediction of the Almighty.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary".​commentaries/​acc/​psalms-127.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Psalms 125-128 Lessons from Jerusalem

As the worshippers journey towards Jerusalem, they recall some of the varied experiences that the city has passed through. They see these as typical of the experiences of God’s people as a whole. Believers are like Jerusalem in that they are completely secure and fully protected (125:1-2). Although Jerusalem sometimes came under the rule of its enemies, God never allowed these enemies to control it for long, in case God’s people lost their devotion to him (3). In the same way God cares for the righteous and punishes their enemies (4-5).
On another occasion God saved Jerusalem from some who plundered the land and threatened to destroy the capital. Israel rejoiced in God’s loving deliverance (126:1-3). But their problems were not over. Hard work lay ahead of them if they were to restore the land. They relied on God to provide water in the dry Negeb region, but they realized that they would have to work hard and long before they could enjoy the fruits of the land again. The lesson for the travellers is that they must persevere if they are to enjoy God’s blessing (4-6).
Whether in governing Jerusalem or in building a family, people must acknowledge the sovereign rule of God. If they become nervous wrecks because of worry-filled days and sleepless nights, their faith in God is shown to be weak (127:1-2). The travellers receive a further encouragement to trust in God by the reminder that a large and healthy family is a blessing from God. It also gives a person stability, strength and honour in society (3-5)
If people’s lives are characterized by trust, obedience and perseverance, they will enjoy the blessings of personal security and a happy home (128:1-4). Wherever God dwells, whether in the sense of dwelling in the family or in the sense of dwelling in Jerusalem, his people there will enjoy his fullest blessing (5-6).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary".​commentaries/​bbc/​psalms-127.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible



This is the central psalm in the Little Psalter and the only one ascribed to Solomon. As Rawlinson remarked, the arrangement of these psalms could hardly have come about accidentally. There appears to be an artificial arrangement separating the ascribed psalms by those considered anonymous.

This is the amazing pattern that emerges: A ... A ... D ... A ... D ... A ... A ... S ... A ... A ... A ... D ... A ... D ... A. (A = Anonymous, D = David, and S = Solomon).

Solomon, according to the superscription, is the author of this psalm. As Leupold said, "There is a strong disinclination on the part of many interpreters to accept this; but there are good reasons for accepting it as reliable."[1] There is absolutely nothing in the psalm itself which casts any doubt on Solomon's authorship.

Besides this, very reliable scholars have pointed out a number of reasons why the Solomonic authorship should be accepted. Delitzsch listed three of these. (1) In the Hebrew text, there is found in Psalms 127:2 here an allusion to the name Jedidiah, which Solomon received from Nathan (2 Samuel 12:25).[2] That reference is in the English words "his beloved"; and Kidner referred to this as perhaps Solomon's "concealed signature."[3] (2) The second reason cited by Delitzsch is that the giving of his beloved "sleep" may be construed as a reference to the great wisdom which God gave to Solomon in that dream (while he slept) "At Gibeon (1 Kings 3:5ff)."[4] (3) The third reason is "The Proverbs-like form of the psalm."[5] (4) A fourth reason for accepting the ascription of the psalm to Solomon was cited by Rawlinson.

The words `[~'etseb],' `[~ne'urim],' and `[~yedidow]' are Solomonic words; also, this psalm agrees with the sentiment of Proverbs 10:22.[6]

Psalms 127:1

"Except Jehovah build the house,

They labor in vain that build it:

Except Jehovah keep the city,

The watchman waketh but in vain."

It was this writer's privilege to attend the inauguration of Dwight David Eisenhower as president of the United States of America. My wife and I had seats No. 113 and No. 114 for the swearing-in ceremonies in front of the capitol, and it was upon this verse that President Eisenhower laid his hand for his taking the oath of office.

Along with the first clause of the following verse, there is a triple affirmation of "vanity" in this psalms upon all the affairs of men unless they receive the blessing of God.

Three areas of human endeavour are reviewed here: (1) building one's house (family, estate, etc.); (2) keeping the security of a city (or nation); and (3) the begetting of children.[7]

"Labor" (Psalms 127:1) is a reference to the most diligent and persistent toil. The simple point is, that no matter how hard a man may work, if God's blessing is not upon him, it will all go for nothing.

"The watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalms 127:1). This does not mean that a city does not need watchmen, or that such a vital service should be discontinued. It simply means that no amount of diligent concern can save a city without the blessing of God. This is just as true now as it was when written. Unless God shall bless our great American cities, the last one of them shall be destroyed.

"Verse one here is universal in its meaning, indicating that dependence upon God is vital in all human undertakings."[8]

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible".​commentaries/​bcc/​psalms-127.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Except the Lord build the house - Or rather, “a house.” The word “house” may refer either to an ordinary dwelling; to the temple, as a place of worship; or to a family, with reference to its success and prosperity, as the word house is often used now. The statement is universal, and is designed to indicate a universal dependence on God in human undertakings, though it is not improbable that there may have been an allusion, when the psalm was composed, to some building which was contemplated or commenced. If the psalm was a composition of David or Solomon, the allusion way have been to the temple about to be erected. The language, however, is so general as to be applicable to any enterprise of that kind.

They labor in vain that build it - literally, “In vain toil its builders in it.” The idea is, that they are entirely dependent on God. No matter what their skill, their strength, their industry may be - all will be in vain unless God shall assist them. They are dependent on Him for life, for health, for strength, for practical wisdom, for a disposition to continue their work, and for success in it. Their work might be destroyed by fire, by a tempest, by an earthquake, or by an irruption of enemies; and for the result, therefore, they are entirely dependent on God.

Except the Lord keep the city - The same idea of dependence is here repeated in another form. The preservation of a city depends wholly on God, whatever care or precaution may be used.

The watchman waketh but in vain - literally, “In vain waketh the keeper.” The word rendered waketh means to be sleepless; and then, to watch. The allusion is to the watch or guard appointed to keep a city, and the idea is, that, whatever may be the diligence, the care, the fidelity of one thus appointed to guard a city, its safe-keeping must depend on God alone. Fires may break out in spite of the watchmen; a tempest may sweep over it; bands of armed people may assail it; or the pestilence may suddenly come into it, and spread desolation through its dwellings. There may have been an allusion in this to some immediate arrangement for guarding Jerusalem when the psalm was composed; but the remark is so general that it is not necessary to confine it to that. It is universally true that, after all the care for their own preservation which people can employ, their safety depends wholly on God.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible".​commentaries/​bnb/​psalms-127.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1.Except Jehovah build the house. There is no reason why the Jews should deny that this Psalm was composed by Solomon. They think that the letter ל, lamed, which we translate of, is equivalent to, in behalf of Solomon; which is at variance with common usage, for such a title in all cases designates the author. Accordingly, they absurdly devise a new sense, for which there is no necessity, it being very suitable for Solomon, who was endued with the spirit of wisdom in the affairs of government, to discourse of things which he knew and had experience about. In affirming that God governs the world and the life of man, he does so for two reasons: First, whatever prosperous event may fall out to men, their ingratitude is instantly manifested by their ascribing it wholly to themselves; and thus God is defrauded of the honor which is his due. Solomon, to correct such a perverse error, declares, that nothing happens prosperously to us except in so far as God blesses our proceedings. Secondly, his purpose was to beat down the foolish presumption of men, who, setting God aside, are not afraid to undertake to do anything, whatever it may be, in exclusive reliance upon their own wisdom and strength. Stripping them, therefore, of that which they groundlessly arrogate to themselves, he exhorts them to modesty and the invocation of God. He does not, however, reject either the labor, the enterprises, or the counsels of men; for it is a praiseworthy virtue diligently to discharge the duties of our office. It is not the will of the Lord that we should be like blocks of wood, or that we should keep our arms folded without doing anything; (99) but that we should apply to use all the talents and advantages which he has conferred upon us. It is indeed true that the greatest part of our labors proceeds from the curse of God; and yet although men had still retained the integrity of their primitive state, God would have had us to be employed, even as we see how Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to dress it. (Genesis 2:15.) Solomon, therefore, does not condemn watchfulness, a thing which God approves; nor yet men’s labor, by which when they undertake it willingly, according to the commandment of God, they offer to him all acceptable sacrifice; but lest, blinded by presumption, they should forcibly appropriate to themselves that which belongs to God, he admonishes them that their being busily occupied will profit them nothing, except in so far as God blesses their exertions. By the word house he means not only a building of wood or stone, but he comprehends the whole domestic order and government of a family, even as a little after by the word city he denotes not only the buildings or enclosure of the walls, but also the general state of the whole commonwealth. There is likewise a synecdoche in the words builder and keeper; for he intends to say in general that whatever labor, foresight, and skill men may employ in maintaining a family, or in preserving a city, will be to no purpose unless God grant from heaven a prosperous issue to the whole.

It behoves us to remember what I have just now touched upon, that since the minds of men are commonly possessed with such headstrong arrogance as leads them to despise God, and to magnify beyond measure their own means and advantages, nothing is of more importance than to humble them, in order to their being made to perceive that whatever they undertake it shall dissolve into smoke, unless God in the exercise of pure grace cause it to prosper. When philosophers argue concerning the political affairs of a state they ingeniously gather together whatever seems to them to answer their purpose — they acutely point out the means of erecting a commonwealth, and on the other hand the vices by which a well-regulated state is commonly corrupted; in short, they discourse with consummate skill upon everything that is necessary to be known on this subject, except that they omit the principal point — which is, that men, however much they may excel in wisdom and virtue, and whatever may be the undertakings in which they may engage, can effect nothing, unless in so far as God stretches forth his hand to them, or rather makes use of them as his instruments. Which of the philosophers ever acknowledged that a politician is nothing else but an instrument guided by the hand of God? Yea, rather they held that good management on the part of man constituted the chief cause of the happiness of the social body. Now, since mortal men thus rise up with profane boldness to build cities, and to order the state of the whole world, the Holy Spirit justly reproves such madness. Let us then so occupy ourselves, each according to the measure of his ability and the nature of his office, as that at the same time the praise of the success attending our exertions may remain exclusively with God. The partition which many devise — that he who has behaved himself valiantly, while he leaves the half of the praise to God, may take the other half to himself, is deserving of all condemnation. The blessing of God should have the whole share and exclusively hold the throne.

Now, if our terrestrial condition depends entirely upon the good pleasure of God, with what wings shall we fly up into heaven? When a house is planned, or a certain manner of life is chosen — yea, even when laws are enacted and justice administered, all this is nothing else than to creep upon the earth; and yet the Holy Spirit declares, that all our endeavors in this way are fruitless and of no value. So much the less to be borne with, then, is the folly of those who strive to penetrate even into heaven by their own power. Farther, we may gather from this doctrine, that it is not wonderful to find in the present day the state of the world so troubled and confused as it actually is — justice put to flight in cities, the husband and the wife mutually accusing each other, fathers and mothers complaining of their children — in short, all bewailing their own condition. For how few are to be found who, in their vocation, turn to God, and who, being rather inflated with arrogance, do not wickedly exalt themselves? God then justly renders this sad reward to ungrateful men when he is defrauded of his honor. But were all men humbly to submit themselves to the providence of God, there is no doubt that this blessing which Solomon here commends would shed its lustre on all parts of our life, both public and private.

The verb עמל, amal, which we have translated to labor, signifies not only to employ one’s self in something or other, but also to busy one’s self even to lassitude and distress. I have said that by the word keepers is to be understood not only those who are appointed to keep watch, but all magistrates and judges. If they are characterized by vigilance, it is the gift of God. There is, however, need of another vigilance — that of God; for unless he keep watch out of heaven no perspicacity of men will be sufficient to guard against dangers.

(99)Ou que nous demeurions les bras eroisez sans rien faire.” — Fr.

Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible".​commentaries/​cal/​psalms-127.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Psalms 127:1-5 is a psalm that is important for all of us to really get implanted deep in our hearts.

Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it ( Psalms 127:1 ):

I spent far too many years laboring in vain, trying to build the Lord's house. Trying to build the Lord's church. I used every gimmick that came down the pike, and there's a lot of them. There are people that are cranking out programs every day, sending them out to churches. And you can buy all kinds of programs: church growth programs, and financial programs. And we get letters all the time of some new program that they've devised for church growth or whatever. They'll come out for a fee and do a demographics on your community and determine just what kind of a program you should enter into to attract the community that you're in, and a sociological demographic. They've got everything all figured out. It's just like if you're trying to merchandise peanuts in an area. They'll come out and they'll take a survey of the people and find out just how to package the peanuts to sell them best, you know. Will they go best in the little cellophane wrap or a little box? Or do you need a can? And the colors and everything else. They've got the whole thing doped out. Well, they got them doped out for churches, too.

And I worked every program that I could trying to build the church of Jesus Christ... all to no avail. I was laboring in vain. Except the Lord build the house, you're spinning your wheels. It's just a lot of futile effort.

except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes up in vain ( Psalms 127:1 ).

Unless God keeps our house. Unless the Lord build our house, you know, you're just worrying in vain. You can't do anything. We've got to just trust the Lord.

It is vain for you to rise up early, and to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows ( Psalms 127:2 ):

Now, not to rise up early to work, but to eat the bread of sorrows.

for so he giveth his beloved sleep ( Psalms 127:2 ).

You know, a lot of people pound the pillow all night long worried about things. It's vain to spend the night worrying.

Now the psalmist begins to talk about the family and the family ties and the strength of the nation is in the strength of the family. And recognizing that this principle is true, he turns now his attention towards the family and declares,

Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward ( Psalms 127:3 ).

Years ago we were living in Tucson, Arizona, and we had a captain in the Air Force that was living next door to us. And they were a very friendly couple, Jim and Jan and their three daughters. And because our driveways were adjacent to each other, according to the sociological books, you have a... if your driveway is adjacent to your neighbor's driveway, then you'll get acquainted with that neighbor. It's sociologically compatible homes. And it's interesting in the demographics, sociological demographics, according to where your driveway is and where your house is in the block and so forth, they can show you which houses you'll be friends of the neighbors around. It's a crazy deal and they've worked it all out.

But we had sociological compatible driveways and so we got acquainted with them. And through our acquaintance, Jan came to receive Jesus Christ. And ultimately, Jim accepted the Lord. Shortly after Jim accepted the Lord, he was transferred to Alaska. He was a pilot of the B29s and I got a letter from Jim, which I will treasure and prize as long as I live. Jim had been a professor at Cornell University prior to being recalled into the Air Force. And he wrote in his letter of his agnosticism that he had had, of his attitudes towards his three daughters. He said, "I used to say that children were the scourge of the earth." And he said, "I hated being tied down in marriage. And I hated being tied down by my girls. I couldn't wait to get away. I love the missions where I would fly off overseas and all and I could just get away from them for a while." He said, "But since receiving Jesus Christ, since your sharing His love with me and my finding out how glorious it is to know the Lord and follow Him," he said, "you know, I'm so lonely for my family I can hardly wait for them to get things packed and get up here with me." He said, "I have such a love for my little girls. They're such a blessing, they're such a heritage, you know." And oh the way the Lord can turn things around in a person's life. Giving us the true sense of value for children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of his youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them ( Psalms 127:4 , Psalms 127:5 ):

So the quiver full of children.

they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate ( Psalms 127:5 ). "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Smith's Bible Commentary".​commentaries/​csc/​psalms-127.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. The futility of labor without faith 127:1-2

These verses recall the spirit of Ecclesiastes with its emphasis on futility. It is foolish, frustrating, and futile to attempt projects without seeking God’s blessing. This applies to building a house and building a household. It also applies to the much larger task of defending a city. Putting in long hours of hard work will only lead to weariness. Conversely, those who trust in the Lord-His beloved-experience rest. Solomon was not denigrating hard work but was advocating dependence on the Lord as one works.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/​psalms-127.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 127

Solomon spoke of God’s blessing in family life in this ascent psalm that is also a wisdom psalm. Trust in God yields domestic benefits that hard work alone cannot provide.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes".​commentaries/​dcc/​psalms-127.html. 2012.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it,.... Whether it be understood literally of an artificial house, as Solomon's own house; or the house of the Lord, or any other: let a man be ever so bent upon building one, or have ever so much skill in drawing the plan of it, or be ever so well provided to go through the expense of it, or have ever so many hands employed in it, yet, if the Lord does not give success, it will all be in vain; the building will fall down, or be consumed by fire before it is finished; or by one providence or another he will be obliged to desist from it, as in the case of the builders of the tower and city of Babel. Or whether it be understood of a family, which is built up by an increase and multiplication of children; so Leah and Rachel built up the house of Israel, Ruth 4:11; this depends upon the providence of God; for, as it is after said, "children are an heritage of the Lord", Psalms 127:3. Or whether it be understood, figuratively and mystically, of the church God, the house of the living God; the house of Christ, a spiritual one; a Gospel church, whose materials are lively stones, or true believers. Now there are builders in this house, some indeed very bad ones; and it is no wonder that they labour in vain, who reject and lay aside the foundation and corner stone, Christ; who deny his deity, despise his righteousness; or mix grace and works, law and Gospel, together, and pluck down with one hand what they build with another: and though there are others that are good ones, and lay the foundation, Christ; and build on this foundation precious truths, comparable to gold, silver, and precious stones; minister the word, and administer the ordinances, truly and faithfully; and in all direct to Christ for grace, strength, peace, comfort, and eternal life; speak to edification, and are the means of reviving the graces of God's people, and of establishing their souls; as well as of the conversion of sinners, whereby the house of God is built up; yet if the Lord does not prosper their work, all is in vain. For the principal builder is God, Father, Son, and Spirit; this is mostly applied to the second Person, the Word and Wisdom of God, Proverbs 9:1; but not to the exclusion of the Father, who has laid in Zion a foundation, a precious corner stone, and builds souls on it; nor of the Spirit, through whom saints are built up an habitation for God, Isaiah 28:16. The Targum here is,

"if the Word of the Lord does not build the city.''

It follows,

except the Lord keep the city; the city Jerusalem, as the Targum; who also here makes mention of the Word of the Lord: or any other city: God, with the Heathens t was called πολιευς, the keeper of cities; this title is given to Minerva by Pindar u, and is one of Jupiter's titles w;

the watchman waketh [but] in vain; to preserve it from riots, robberies, fires, c. This may be applied to the church of God, the city of the living God, of which saints are fellow citizens: now in this city there are watchmen, some indeed that are blind and asleep, and so quite unfit for this office but there are others who are awake and diligent, and watch in all things; and for the souls of men, and the good of the city, the church, to prevent heresies, errors, and immoralities; and yet all their watchfulness is in vain, unless the Lord keep it, who watches over his people for good, and that none hurt them; he wakeful, never slumbers nor sleeps, and constant night and day; and keeps his people by his power, and as tenderly as the apple of his eye.

t Aristotel. de Mundo, c. 7. Apuleius de Mundo, prope finem. Phurnutus de Natura Deor. c. 9. u Olympiad. Ode 5. w Pausaniae Attica, sive l. 1. p. 43, 53. Vid Theoph. ad Autolye. l. 1. p. 76.

Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible".​commentaries/​geb/​psalms-127.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Dependence on Providence; God the Giver of Prosperity.

A song of degrees for Solomon.

      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.   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.   3 Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.   4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.   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.

      We are here taught to have a continual regard to the divine Providence in all the concerns of this life. Solomon was cried up for a wise man, and would be apt to lean to his own understanding and forecast, and therefore his father teaches him to look higher, and to take God along with him in his undertakings. He was to be a man of business, and therefore David instructed him how to manage his business under the direction of his religion. Parents, in teaching their children, should suit their exhortations to their condition and occasions. We must have an eye to God,

      I. In all the affairs and business of the family, even of the royal family, for kings' houses are no longer safe than while God protects them. We must depend upon God's blessing and not our own contrivance, 1. For the raising of a family: Except the Lord build the house, by his providence and blessing, those labour in vain, though ever so ingenious, that build it. We may understand it of the material house: except the Lord bless the building it is to no purpose for men to build, any more than for the builders of Babel, who attempted in defiance of heaven, or Hiel, who built Jericho under a curse. If the model and design be laid in pride and vanity, or if the foundations be laid in oppression and injustice (Habakkuk 2:11; Habakkuk 2:12), God certainly does not build there; nay, if God be not acknowledged, we have no reason to expect his blessing, and without his blessing all is nothing. Or, rather, it is to be understood of the making of a family considerable that was mean; men labour to do this by advantageous matches, offices, employments, purchases; but all in vain, unless God build up the family, and raise the poor out of the dust. The best-laid project fails unless God crown it with success. See Malachi 1:4. 2. For the securing of a family or a city (for this is what the psalmist particularly mentions): if the guards of the city cannot secure it without God, much less can the good man of the house save his house from being broken up. Except the Lord keep the city from fire, from enemies, the watchmen, who go about the city, or patrol upon the walls of it, though they neither slumber nor sleep, wake but in vain, for a raging fire may break out, the mischief of which the timeliest discoveries may not be able to prevent. The guards may be slain, or the city betrayed and lost, by a thousand accidents, which the most watchful sentinel or most cautious governor could not obviate. 3. For the enriching of a family; this is a work of time and thought, but cannot be effected without the favour of Providence any more than that which is the product of one happy turn: "It is vain for you to rise up early and sit up late, and so to deny yourselves your bodily refreshments, in the eager pursuit of the wealth of the world." Usually, those that rise early do not care for sitting up late, nor can those that sit up late easily persuade themselves to rise early; but there are some so hot upon the world that they will do both, will rob their sleep to pay their cares. And they have as little comfort in their meals as in their rest; they eat the bread of sorrows. It is part of our sentence that we eat our bread in the sweat of our face; but those go further: all their days they eat in darkness,Ecclesiastes 5:17. They are continually fell of care, which embitters their comforts, and makes their lives a burden to them. All this is to get money, and all in vain except God prosper them, for riches are not always to men of understanding,Ecclesiastes 9:11. Those that love God, and are beloved of him, have their minds easy and live very comfortably without this ado. Solomon was called Jedidiah--Beloved of the Lord (2 Samuel 12:25); to him the kingdom was promised, and then it was in vain for Absalom to rise up early, to wheedle the people, and for Adonijah to make such a stir, and to say, I will be king. Solomon sits still, and, being beloved of the Lord, to him he gives sleep and the kingdom too. Note, (1.) Inordinate excessive care about the things of this world is a vain a d fruitless thing. We weary ourselves for vanity if we have it, and often weary ourselves in vain for it, Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9. (2.) Bodily sleep is God's gift to his beloved. We owe it to his goodness that our sleep is safe (Psalms 4:8), that it is sweet, Jeremiah 31:25; Jeremiah 31:26. God gives us sleep as he gives it to his beloved when with it he gives us grace to lie down in his fear (our souls returning to him and reposing in him as our rest), and when we awake to be still with him and to use the refreshment we have by sleep in his service. He gives his beloved sleep, that is, quietness and contentment of mind, and comfortable enjoyment of what is present and a comfortable expectation of what is to come. Our care must be to keep ourselves in the love of God, and then we may be easy whether we have little or much of this world.

      II. In the increase of the family. He shows, 1. That children are God's gift,Psalms 127:2; Psalms 127:2. If children are withheld it is God that withholds them (Genesis 30:2); if they are given, it is God that gives them (Genesis 33:5); and they are to us what he makes them, comforts or crosses. Solomon multiplied wives, contrary to the law, but we never read of more than one son that he had; for those that desire children as a heritage from the Lord must receive them in the way that he is pleased to give them, by lawful marriage to one wife. Malachi 2:15, therefore one, that he might seek a seed of God. But they shall commit whoredom and shall not increase. Children are a heritage, and a reward, and are so to be accounted, blessings and not burdens; for he that sends mouths will send meat if we trust in him. Obed-edom had eight sons, for the Lord blessed him because he had entertained the ark, 1 Chronicles 26:5. Children are a heritage for the Lord, as well as from him; they are my children (says God) which thou hast borne unto me (Ezekiel 16:20); and they are most our honour and comfort when they are accounted to him for a generation. 2. That they are a good gift, and a great support and defence to a family: As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, who knows how to use them for his own safety and advantage, so are children of the youth, that is, children born to their parents when they are young, which are the strongest and most healthful children, and are grown up to serve them by the time they need their service; or, rather, children who are themselves young; they are instruments of much good to their parents and families, which may fortify themselves with them against their enemies. The family that has a large stock of children is like a quiver full of arrows, of different sizes we may suppose, but all of use one time or other; children of different capacities and inclinations may be several ways serviceable to the family. He that has a numerous issue may boldly speak with his enemy in the gate in judgment; in battle he needs not fear, having so many good seconds, so zealous, so faithful, and in the vigour of youth, 1 Samuel 2:4; 1 Samuel 2:5. Observe here, Children of the youth are arrows in the hand, which, with prudence, may be directed aright to the mark, God's glory and the service of their generation; but afterwards, when they have gone abroad into the world, they are arrows out of the hand; it is too late to bend them then. But these arrows in the hand too often prove arrows in the heart, a constant grief to their godly parents, whose gray hairs they bring with sorrow to the grave.

Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Psalms 127:1". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible".​commentaries/​mhm/​psalms-127.html. 1706.