New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 128:1

A Song of Ascents-
Or 'degrees'. Hezekiah’s response to being granted another 15 years of life was to edit and produce the Songs of Degrees, so named after the degrees of the sundial. Four of the 15 Psalms were by David, one by Solomon; and the other 10 it seems Hezekiah wrote himself but left anonymous. These ten Psalms would reflect the ten degrees by which the sun-dial went backwards. The point to note is that Hezekiah taught others in an anonymous way in response to the grace he had received. True preaching reflects a certain artless selflessness. These songs of ascents were presumably also intended to be sung by the exiles as they returned to Zion, and then every time they went up to Jerusalem to keep a feast. But there is no evidence this happened. For they didn't return in the kind of faith implied in these Psalms. The plural "ascents" would then be an intensive plural referring to the one great ascent, to Zion. Much of the language of these Psalms is typical of David's language when under persecution by Saul. But the Psalm was reapplied to Hezekiah, and then to the exiles on their return from Babylon, and then by extension to all God's people on their journey zionwards.

Blessed is each one who fears Yahweh, who walks in His ways-
"Each one" reminds the exiles, and all of us, that our response to His call is not just a group experience; each is required to personally believe the call to the restored Kingdom in Zion. God's "ways" were particularly the ways to Zion which the repentant exiles were intended to walk, inviting repentant Gentiles to join them on the journey (Is. 2:3; Jer. 50:5).

Psa 128:2

For you will eat the labour of your hands; you will be happy, and it will be well with you-
Eating the labour of the hands, rather than having it taken away by invaders (Dt. 28:33) like the Babylonians (Jer. 3:24), was a blessing for obedience to the covenant. But this didn't happen as envisaged for those who returned; the work of their hands was consumed by drought (s.w. Hag. 1:11) because they were not repentant and not truly seeking the restoration of Zion.

Psa 128:3

Your wife will be as a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your children like olive plants around your table-
This focus upon children in these Psalms is because (as explained throughout Ps. 127), God wished to build the seed / house of His people, rather than having a literal house built for Him. See on :6. A explained on :2 and :4, the impenitence of the exiles meant that these things didn't come true as was potentially possible, and so they were given a different fulfilment in the fruitfulness of the Lord Jesus and His seed.

Psa 128:4

Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears Yahweh-
As noted on :2, these things didn't come true for the returning exiles as was potentially possible. And so the prophecies were reapplied to the things of the Lord Jesus. The "man" is the Lord Jesus; we are the children He has been given (Is. 8:18). Israel, His wife like a vine, will be fruitful in the Kingdom (this is prophesied several times), and we are promised to sit round his table (Lk. 22:30). Israel in the Kingdom will be the vine that blossoms and buds, and fills the face of the world with spiritual fruit (Is. 27:6).

Psa 128:5

May Yahweh bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life-
The blessing of Yahweh coming out of Zion was what was possible in the restored Kingdom of God; it would be associated with Yahweh Himself dwelling in Zion (Ps. 134:3; 135:21). This would be the time when the temple vision of Ez. 40-48 was obeyed by the exiles, and the city called Yahweh Shammah, "Yahweh is there". But at the time of the exiles' return, it was precluded by their impenitence and refusal to build the temple and city according to the commands of Ez. 40-48, and the fact the majority refused to participate in the program and remained in Persia / Babylon.

Psa 128:6

Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel-
I discussed throughout Ps. 127 that God wished all interested in building Him a house to realize that this wasn't quite what he wanted. Rather He wanted to build up the seed of David. Peace and blessing would come in the form of generations of David's seed being eternally established in Zion; but this was to be by God's work, and not the result of literally building or rebuilding a temple.