1. Reflections upon Deliverance from Babylonian Captivity (vv.1-3)
  2. Prayer for Final Restoration (vv.4-6)
TITLE A Song of Ascents ( ryvi [n.m.s.] tAl[]M;h; [, ma-alah, ascent]).
Reflections upon Deliverance from Babylonian Captivity (vv.1-3)

VERSE 1 When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion ( bWvB. [prep.w/Qal.infin.cstr., shubh, return, turn back] hw"hy> [pr.n.] tb;yvi-ta, [dir.obj. + n.f.s.cstr. hb'yvi shiybah, captivity, "captive ones"] !Ayci [pr.n.]),

We were like those who dream ( WnyyIh' [, hayah, to be; "were"] `~ymil.xoK. [prep.w/ ~lx chalam, to dream]).

VERSE 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter ( za' [adv., then] WnyPi [n.m.s.w/1.c.p.sf., peh, mouth] aleM'yI [Niphil.impf.3.m.s., male, to fill] qAxf. [n.m.s., shechoq, laughter])

And our tongue with joyful shouting ( WnnEAvl.W [conj.w/n.f.s.w/1.c.s.sf., lashon, tongue] hN"rI [n.f.s., rinnah, resounding cry]);

Then they said among the nations ( za' [adv.] Wrm.ayO [Qal.impf.3.m.p., amar, say] ~yIAGb; [, goi, nation]),

"The LORD has done great things for them ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] tAf[]l; [prep. w/Qal.infin.cstr., ashah; "done"] lyDIg>hi [ ldG gadhol, to make great, do great things] `hL,ae-~[I [prep., with, + adj.c.p., elleh, these; "for them"])."

VERSE 3 The LORD has done great things for us ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] tAf[]l; [prep.w/Qal.infin.cstr., ashah] lyDIg>hi [, gadhol, do great things] WnM'[I [prep.w/1.c.p.sf.; "for us"]) ;

We are glad ( WnyyIh' [, hayah; "are"] ~yximef. [adj.m.p. shameach, glad]).


  1. The psalmís historical setting is post-exilic (after the Babylonian captivity).
  2. Verses 1-3 are retrospective (look backward in time).
  3. Verses 4-6 are prospective (look to the future).
  4. The key to interpretation of the psalm is to differentiate between the events of vv.1 and 4.
  5. Reversal of Israelís fortunes is presented from the historical fact of the first restoration and from the prophetic promise of the second (final) return from world-wide captivity.
  6. Verses 1-3 are a meditation upon the past, while vv.4-6 relate to the last days.
  7. Psalm 85 is structured in the same fashion, with a historical setting (vv.1-3) followed by a prophetic setting.
  8. "When the LORD brought back (restored) the captive ones (captivity) of Zion" refers to the return from the 70-year Babylonian captivity in 535BC (Jer.25:11,12).
  9. The psalmist, speaking on behalf of the returnees, compares their experience to that of pleasant dreams (v.1b).
  10. It seemed too good to be true.
  11. For the old-timers, it was an especially thrilling conclusion to their lives.
  12. They, as young people, had experienced the harsh reality of seeing their nation destroyed and the long trek (530 direct miles) to a strange and hostile city.
  13. After that they raised families and established themselves in the Jewish quarter of Babylon.
  14. Their final adventure was to return to their devastated homeland and witness the construction and dedication of the second Temple (it was completed 20 years later on March 12, 515BC; Ezra.6:15).
  15. The dedication ceremony associated with the laying of the foundation was an occasion of great joy on the part of the returnees (Ezra.3:11-13; cp. Hag.2:3).
  16. The dedication ceremony associated with the Templeís completion was likewise a time of great joy (Ezra.6:13-22).
  17. The Temple construction was delayed until 520BC (15 years) due to slander of the Samaritans before the Persian authority (Ezra.4:1-24).
  18. Verse 2a,b makes mention of the joyful excitement of the founders of the second commonwealth.
  19. The verse also records the Gentile reaction of awe, in which even they were compelled to add their own praise in confirmation (v.2c,d).
  20. This is something I did not know until I read this verse!
  21. The Jews of that era gave Yahweh the credit for His actions to preserve the race and rebuild the nation from the ashes of national destruction (v.3).
  22. Godís actions to bring all this to pass was a great witness to the Hebrew race and to the nations of that era.
Prayer for Final Restoration (vv.4-6)

VERSE 4 Restore our captivity, O LORD ( hb'Wv [Qal.imper., shubh; return] WnteWbv.-ta, [dir.obj. + n.f.s.w/1.c.p.sf. tWbv. shebuth, capitivity] hw"hy> [pr.n.])

As the streams in the South ( ~yqiypia]K; [prep.w/n.m.p. qypia' aphiq, channel, ravine, steam] `bg<N<B; [prep.w/pr.n., Neghebh, South]).

VERSE 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting ( ~y[ir>ZOh; [ [rz zara, sow] h['m.dIB. [prep.w/n.f.s., dime-ah, tears] `Wrcoq.yI [Qal.impf.3.m.p. rcq qatsar, reap] hN"rIB. [prep.w/n.f.s., rinnah, "joyful shouting"]).

VERSE 6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed ( %Alh' [Qal.infin.abs., halak, go, walk] %leyE [Qal.impf.3.m.s., halak] hkob'W [conj. w/Qal.infin.abs. hkB badhah, weep] afenO [, nasha, lift, carry] [r;Z"h;-%v,m, [n.m.s.cstr., meshek, drawing out, fishing; "bag", + n.m.s., zera, seed]),

Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him ( aAby"-aBo [Qal.infin.abs., bo, + Qal.impf.3.m.s., bo; this construction is designed to lend emphasis; hence, the translation: "Shall indeedÖ] hN"rIb. [prep.w/n.f.s., rinnah; "shout of joy"] afenO [, nasha, carry] `wyt'Molua] [n.f.p.w/3.m.s.sf. hM'lua] alummah, sheaf; of Israel returning from exile]).


  1. The second half of the song has a forward look.
  2. It is prophetic and relates to the second (and final) restoration, with special focus on the 7-year Tribulation (vv.5,6).
  3. The self-reminder of the earlier intervention and restoration of the Jewish homeland served as an encouragement that the Lord was capable and willing to intervene in the face of a third dispersion and even greater challenge.
  4. The prayer petition of v.4 recognizes that many Jews remained in captivity after the return of a remnant from Babylon in 535BC.
  5. Jews of the Assyrian captivity (721BC) and those who elected not to come home out of Babylon were still among the nations.
  6. But the prayer reaches to the time following the third dispersion in 70AD in which the second commonwealth faced the same peril as the first commonwealth.
  7. So the prayer prophetically anticipates the world-wide dispersion following the prophesied Roman dispersion (Dan.9:26).
  8. The psalmist asks God to once more come to their aid (v.4).
  9. The explicit appeal in v.4 has been in the process of being fulfilled with the reestablishment of the third commonwealth in the middle of the twentieth century.
  10. In 1948 Israel was reborn as a nation among the nations, and in 1967 the Jews regained political control of Jerusalem for the first time in 1900 years.
  11. The cycle of misfortune and deliverance celebrated in v.1 has partially come around again.
  12. The language of metaphor is used in v.4b, asking that God will act the next time in an unprecedented fashion.
  13. As the Lord of nature is able to bring torrential flooding to the wadis of the Negev ("South"), so He is asked to reverse Israelís national fortunes from extreme summer drought to that of welcome winter floods through the wadis of southern Israel (v.4b).
  14. Water is now flowing, so to speak, in the return of Jews from among the nations.
  15. This trend will continue on into the Tribulation to the Second Advent, when God will restore all believing Jews of all time.
  16. Verses 5 and 6 zero in on the process during the Tribulation.
  17. The pre-Rapture phase finds the Jews in a state of unbelief, as prophesied by Ezekiel (chps. 34-37; cp. 36:22).
  18. However, in the Tribulation the situation will be different in that many Jews will accept Christ as their Messiah, along with many Gentiles.
  19. In the Tribulation Israel will once again assume the role of priest nation (cf. Hos.4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children").
  20. As in the age of Israel, the redeemed of Israel will be the lighthouse to the nations.
  21. Through Israel the gospel of the kingdom will be spread throughout all the earth.
  22. This is what is behind the analogy in vv.4,5.
  23. God will have a variety of witnesses during the Tribulation for an unsaved world on its way to judgment.
  24. For starters, He will raise up the 144,000 witnesses, who are male Jews.
  25. They will be accorded special protection and will travel unimpeded over the face of the earth, bearing witness to the power and grace of God (Rev.7:1-8).
  26. The analogy of vv.5,6 parallels the work of a farmer with the work of an evangelist.
  27. Traditionally, sowing had overtones of sorrow and death (Jn.12:24; 1Cor.15:36), but the toil and tears of frustration eventually give way to harvest for the workers.
  28. Those who travel and witness to mankind will experience the hostility of those on whom the seed (the WOG, from the parable of the sower) is sown.
  29. Out of all the toil and lupe (sorrow) of sowing BD comes the prospect of harvest.
  30. The harvest of souls is the humanity which comes to saving faith in the Tribulation.
  31. We know that this harvest will be significant (Rev.7:9ff; Mt.25:31ff).
  32. Sheaves represent the harvest of positive volition that will come from the efforts of the sowers in the Tribulation.
  33. Sorrow associated with labor in dissemination of BD will give way to "joyful shouting"/"a shout of joy".
  34. The sheaves will be brought safely into the barn - that is, into the Millennium.
  35. It will be worth all the "weeping" associated with the sowing phase.

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