1. Fruitless Efforts? (vv.1,2)
  2. Living Assets (vv.3-5)
TITLE A Song of Ascents, of Solomon ( ryvi [n.m.s.] tAl[]M;h; [, ma-alah] hmol{ [pr.n.]).
Fruitless Efforts? (vv.1,2)

VERSE 1 Unless the LORD builds the house ( hw"hy>-~ai [adv. + pr.n.] hn<b.yI-al [neg.part. + Qal.impf.3.m.s., banah, build] tyIb; [n.m.s., bayith, house]),

They labor in vain who build it ( Wlm.[' [Qal.impf.3.c.p., amal, labor] aw>v' [n.m.s., shawe, vanity; "in vain"] wyn"Ab [, banah, build] AB [prep. w/3.m.s.sf.; "it"]) ;

Unless the LORD guards the city ( hw"hy>-~ai [adv. + pr.n.] ry[i-rm'v.yI-al [neg.part. + Qal.impf.3.m.s., shamar, guard, + n.f.s., ir, city]),

The watchman keeps awake in vain ({ `rmeAv [, shamar, guard; "watchman"] dq;v' [, shaqadh, to wake, be alert] aw>v' [n.m.s., shawe, vanity; "in vain"]).

VERSE 2 It is vain for you to rise up early ( aw>v' [n.m.s., shawe, vanity] ~k,l' [prep.w/2m.p.sf.; "for you"] ~Wq [Qal.infin.cstr., qum, rise] ymeyKiv.m; [, shakhan, to start early; "early"]),

To retire late ( tb,v,-yrex]a;m. [, achar, to delay, wait, + Qal.infin.cstr., yashabh, dwell]) ,

To eat the bread of painful labors ( [, akhal, eat] ~x,l, [n.m.s., lechem, bread, food] ~ybic'[]h' [ bc,[, etsebh, pain; "painful labors"]);

For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep ( !Ke [adv., this being so] !TeyI [Qal.impf.3.m.s., nathan, give] AdydIyli [prep.w/adj.m.s.w/3.m.s.sf. dydIy" yadidh, one beloved; 8X: Deut.33:12; Pss.45:1; 60:5; 84:1; 108:6; 127:2; Isa.5:1; Jer.11:15] `an"ve [n.f.s., shenah, sleep]).


  1. Psalm 127 is one of the processional songs and is classified as a wisdom psalm.
  2. Elements within the psalm reflect motifs from Solomonís other writings (Ecclesiastes and Proverbs).
  3. Verse 1 is a double proverb.
  4. It presents two human activities that depend upon the Lord for their success.
  5. The first is the construction projects, like home building.
  6. If God is not for it, all of manís best efforts are to no avail.
  7. Man can only proceed ahead and accomplish various enterprises if God permits it.
  8. If God is against it, the thing entered into will be "in vain".
  9. Many things are done under the permissive will of God and some are done under His directive will.
  10. Nothing can be done in the face of His overruling will.
  11. The words "Unless the LORD builds the house" refers to His direct or indirect blessing upon manís efforts.
  12. Indirect blessing is His permissive will.
  13. The first example is a very common human activity that is frustrated from time to time for reasons only known to God.
  14. Why does one person succeed, who is evil, and another fail?
  15. All kinds of people succeed and all kinds fail.
  16. Those who proceed under the directive will of God are insured success.
  17. Those who do not may or may not succeed.
  18. All who succeed do so because God either directed it or permitted it.
  19. The words "the LORD builds the house" refers to His active or permissive support.
  20. "In vain" indicates failure to complete the project, not vanity as a meaningless effort where there is no relationship with God, as seen in Ecclesiastes.
  21. The second example parallels the first and has to do with national security.
  22. If God does not protect a "city", then those who are responsible for its security labor "in vain".
  23. Even evil societies are protected by the invisible presence of God.
  24. Solomon is not confining his observations to the righteous.
  25. Men typically think that it all depends upon them.
  26. These verses are designed to be a corrective to common human viewpoint thinking that individual or group success depends upon the wise planning and resources at hand.
  27. Our nation continues safe from the fifth cycle because of divine providence and not because or our advanced technology to detect enemy aggression.
  28. When God withdraws His protection, then even the most well prepared societies are doomed.
  29. Certainly God uses humanly-devised security measures to protect societies, but in the absence of divine providence all such efforts are "in vain".
  30. When God calls for the destruction of a city or nation, all their best efforts are "in vain" (cp. Jer.18:5-10).
  31. The secret of national security - or its negation - rests with God (cf. Amos.3:6).
  32. Verse 2 relates to the common human activity of labor (making a living).
  33. Verse 2 is an admonition given to the psalmistís fellow citizens.
  34. It rebukes self-sufficiency and the workaholic mentality.
  35. It is common for people to fall into the trap that getting ahead all depends upon them.
  36. And a lot of people figure that if they work long hours they will succeed.
  37. Solomon says that there is a better approach that recognizes that God is willing to give us the edge provided we are otherwise reasonably diligent.
  38. In all things we are to avoid the extremes.
  39. With respect to labor there are the extremes of laziness and being a workaholic with its corollary, self-sufficiency (it all depends upon me).
  40. Believers should solicit the blessing of God upon their occupations.
  41. Many people work long hours, rising early to get to their work and retiring late, year after year, only "to eat the bread of painful labors".
  42. Those who continually put themselves under physical and emotional stress do not end up enjoying what they have worked so hard to attain.
  43. "It is vain for you" says the psalmist, as it will not bring you what you hope to acquire.
  44. To eat the bread of sorrow is to experience misery due to broken health, marriage, etc.
  45. The truly adjusted believer is the one who has divine providence maximizing his efforts in the work force.
  46. God is against those who embrace the viewpoint of v.2a,b, but for those who love God and His Word, there is special favor that takes the misery out of the daily grind.
  47. In v.2d the psalmist refers to himself under the designation "His beloved" (cp. Ps.108:6; cp. Deut.33:13; Ps.60:5).
  48. The designation "beloved" means "favorite", and is used of the Davidic heir (Ps.108:6).
  49. If the One who never sleeps actively was advancing Solomonís occupational interests, so He will on behalf of all who rest in Him.
  50. Such grace is not operational toward those who think it all depends upon them.
  51. Believers who are in their "right jobs" and who pray and apply BD are given special grace above and beyond those who think it all depends upon them.
  52. Solomon testifies to his fellow citizens that when he is in the viewpoint and operational will of God that the One who never sleeps is out there working on his behalf (v.2d).
  53. His professional and economic interests are being furthered by the unseen hand of God.
  54. Even while you sleep, God is out there blessing your occupation.
  55. Putting in extra hours and being mentally consumed with the job is not the answer; the answer is reliance upon God and faithfulness to the commandments (like being in class instead of scheduling more hours of work).
  56. God wants to make less go further within reason.
  57. The workaholic does not find what he is looking for, but just the opposite.
Living Assets (vv.3-5)

VERSE 3 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD ( hNEhi [interj.] ~ynIB' [n.m.p., ben, child] tl;x]n: [n.f.s.cstr. hl'x]n: nachalah, inheritance; "gift"] hw"hy> [pr.n.]);

The fruit of the womb is a reward ( yrIP. [n.m.s., peri, fruit] `!j,B'h; [, beten, womb] rk'f' [n.m.s., shakhar, wages; "reward"]).

VERSE 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior ( ~yCixiK [prep.w/n.m.p., chets, arrow] rABGI-dy:B.. [prep.w/n.f.s.cstr., yadh, hand, + adj.m.s., gibhor, warrior, mighty man]),

So are the children of one's youth ( !Ke [adv.] ynEB. [n.m.p.cstr., ben, child] `~yrIW[N>h; [ ~yrIW[n> neurim, youth, early life]).

VERSE 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them ( yrev.a; [interj.] rb,G<h; [, gebhor, strong man] rv,a] [] AtP'v.a;-ta, [dir.obj. + n.f.s.w/3.m.s.sf. hP'v.a; ashepah, quiver] aLemi [, male, be full] ~h,me [prep.w/3.m.p.sf.; "of them"]);

They will not be ashamed ( WvboyE-al{ [neg. + Qal.impf.3.m.p., bosh, be ashamed]),

When they speak with their enemies in the gate ( WrB.d;y>-yKi [prep. + Piel.impf.3.m.p., dabher, speak] ~ybiy>Aa-ta, [dir.obj. +, ayabh, be hostile; "enemy"] `r[;V'B; [, sha-ar, gate]).


  1. In the songís second strophe we have a comparative proverb (vv.3,4) and a beatitude/saying (v.5).
  2. With the interjection "Behold" we have a striking example in support of the maxim that everything depends upon Godís blessing.
  3. "Behold" introduces a potentially wonderful and great blessing.
  4. Children (literally, "sons"), within the context of Divine Institutions # 2 (marriage) and 3 (family), "are a gift" and "a reward" among those who are positive.
  5. While the blessings associated with the divine institutions are for the whole human race, it is in reference to those who love and serve God that the psalmist has in mind.
  6. He is speaking of the ideal situation where the parents act in a responsible manner with respect to the gift/reward bestowed.
  7. All of Godís gifts can be misused and abused, negating the blessings of parenting.
  8. Children are a grace gift and a reward for faithfulness to Godís moral and spiritual order.
  9. Children, especially when they are the offspring of a youthful marriage, are like arrows in the hand of a warrior.
  10. At the time when the father was growing old and his sons were in the prime of their lives, his sons were at hand to come to the aid of their parents.
  11. Youthful sons, under the covenant, were supposed to defend and protect their elderly father and weaker members of the family.
  12. Each son was to his father like an arrow in the hand to defend against all kinds of enemies.
  13. Parents who raise their children as they should will reap benefits in old age.
  14. God intended that children be a protection for their parents in their old age.
  15. This is an important part of the commandment to honor father and mother.
  16. Parents are to train and protect children to adulthood and children are to be there for their parents when they need them in their old age.
  17. Happy is the man, the psalmist exclaims, who has a quiver (a house) full of such arrows (v.5a).
  18. The father and such a company of sons surrounding him form a protective circle that cannot easily be broken through.
  19. If they had to speak with enemies of the faith and family in the place where such matters were dealt with ("in the gate"), they would carry the day against those who had brought unjust accusations against the father.
  20. City/town gates were the place of public forum in Bible times.
  21. "They shall not be ashamed" means that they will not be at a loss to turn back whatever accusations or false claims are made against the family.
  22. Unjust judges, malicious accusers, false brethren, and false witnesses fade away before a family so capable of defending itself.
  23. The opposite situation is seen in Job.5:4, where the cursing of an unrighteous man rests upon his sons.
  24. But for those who faithfully and diligently raise their children, there is great reward in later life.
  25. Therefore, it is very important that those of you who still have opportunity raise your sons and daughters to know and apply BD and in turn they will be a source of blessing and protection to you with the passage of time.
Jack M. Ballinger

© Copyright 1998, Maranatha Church Inc.