Psalms 129PSALM CXXIX The Jews give an account of the afflictions which they have passed through, 1-3. And thank God for their deliverance, 4. The judgments that shall fall on the workers of iniquity, 5-8. NOTES ON PSALM CXXIX This Psalm was written after the captivity; and contains a reference to the many tribulations which the Jews passed through from their youth, i.e., the earliest part of their history, their bondage in Egypt. It has no title in any of the Versions, nor in the Hebrew text, except the general one of A Psalm of Degrees. The author is uncertain. Verse 1. Many a time have they afflicted me] The Israelites had been generally in affliction or captivity from the earliest part of their history, here called their youth. So Ho 2:15: "She shall sing as in the days of her youth, when she came up out of the land of Egypt." See Jer 2:2, and Eze 16:4, &c. Verse 2. Yet they have not prevailed] They endeavoured to annihilate us as a people; but God still preserves us as his own nation. Verse 3. The plowers plowed upon my back] It is possible that this mode of expression may signify that the people, during their captivity, were cruelly used by scourging, &c.; or it may be a sort of proverbial mode of expression for the most cruel usage. There really appears here to be a reference to a yoke, as if they had actually been yoked to the plough, or to some kind of carriages, and been obliged to draw like beasts of burden. In this way St. Jerome understood the passage; and this has the more likelihood, as in the next verse God is represented as cutting them off from these draughts. Verse 4. The Lord-hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.] The words have been applied to the sufferings of Christ; but I know not on what authority. No such scourging could take place in his case, as would justify the expression,- "The ploughers made long furrows there, Till all his body was one wound." It is not likely that he received more than thirty-nine stripes. The last line is an unwarranted assertion. Verse 5. Let them all be confounded] They shall be confounded. They who hate Zion, the Church of God, hate God himself; and all such must be dealt with as enemies, and be utterly confounded. Verse 6. As the grass upon the housetops] As in the east the roofs of the houses were flat, seeds of various kinds falling upon them would naturally vegetate, though in an imperfect way; and, because of the want of proper nourishment, would necessarily dry and wither away. If grass, the mower cannot make hay of it; if corn, the reaper cannot make a sheaf of it. Let the Babylonians be like such herbage-good for nothing, and come to nothing. Withereth afore it groweth up] Before shalak, it is unsheathed; i.e., before it ears, or comes to seed. Verse 8. Neither do they which go by say] There is a reference here to the salutations which were given and returned by the reapers in the time of the harvest. We find that it was customary, when the master came to them into the field, to say unto the reapers, The Lord be with you! and for them to answer, The Lord bless thee! Ru 2:4. Let their land become desolate, so that no harvest shall ever more appear in it. No interchange of benedictions between owners and reapers. This has literally taken place: Babylon is utterly destroyed; no harvests grow near the place where it stood. ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-NINTH PSALM The intent of the prophet in composing this Psalm is to comfort the Church in affliction, and to stir her up to glorify God for his providence over her, always for her good, and bringing her enemies to confusion, and a sudden ruin. It is divided into three parts:- I. The indefatigable malice of the enemies of the Church, Ps 129:1, 3. II. That their malice is vain. God saves them, Ps 129:2, 4. III. God puts into the mouth of his people what they may say to their enemies, even when their malice is at the highest. I. "Many a time have they afflicted me," &c. In which observe,- 1. That afflictions do attend those who will live righteously in Christ Jesus. 2. These afflictions are many: "Many a time," &c. 3. That they begin with the Church: "From my youth." Prophets, martyrs, &c. 4. This affliction was a heavy affliction: "The plowers plowed upon my back," &c. They dealt unmercifully with me, as a husbandman does with his ground. II. But all their malice is to no purpose. 1. "Yet they have not prevailed against me." To extinguish the Church. 2. The reason is, "The Lord is righteous." And therefore he protects all those who are under his tuition, and punishes their adversaries. 3. "The Lord is righteous," &c. Cut asunder the ropes and chains with which they made their furrows: "He hath delivered Israel," &c. III. In the following verses, to the end, the prophet, by way of prediction, declares the vengeance God would bring upon his enemies which has three degrees:- 1. "Let them all be confounded," &c. Fail in their hopes against us. 2. "Let them be as the grass," &c. That they quickly perish. Grass on the housetops is good for nothing: "Which withereth afore it groweth up," &c. Never is mowed, nor raked together. 3. "Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord," &c. No man says so much as, God speed him! as is usual to say to workmen in harvest: but even this the enemies of the Church, and of God's work, say not, for they wish it not.
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