PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE
Outline
  1. Israel, the Scarred Survivor (vv.1-4)
  2. The Price for Hatred (vv.5-8)
TITLE A Song of Ascents ( ryvi [n.m.s.] tAl[]M;h; [def.art.w/n.f.p., ma-alah, what comes up]).
Israel, the Scarred Survivor (vv.1-4)

VERSE 1 "Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up ( tB;r [adj.m.s., rabah, many] ynIWrr'c [Qal.pf.3.c.p.w/1.c.s.sf., tsarar, to bind, be cramped; "persecuted"] yr;W[N>mi.; [prep., min, w/n.m.p.w/1.c.s.sf., naur, youth]),"

Let Israel now say ( an"-rm;ayO [Qal.impf.3.m.s., amar, say, + prep. of entreaty] `laer'f.y [pr.n.]),

VERSE 2 "Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up ( tB;r [adj.m.s., rabh, many] ynIWrr'c [Qal.pf.3.c.p.w/1.c.s.sf., tsarar] yr'W[N>mi.; [prep., min, + n.m.p.w/1.c.s.sf., naur, youth]);

Yet they have not prevailed against me ( ~G: [conj., gam, also, yet] Wlk.y"-al [neg. + Qal.pf.3.c.p., yakhal, prevail] { `yli [prep.w/1.c.s.sf.]).

VERSE 3 "The plowers plowed upon my back ( ~yvir>xo [Qal.pt.m.p., charash, cut in, engrave; "plowers"] Wvr>x' [Qal.pf.3.c.p., charash; "plowed"] yBiG:-l[; [prep. + n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., gabh, back]);

They lengthened their furrows ( WkyrIa/h, [Hiphil.pf.3.c.p., arakh, to be long; to make long] `~t'ynI[]m;l. ~t'An[]m;l.[ [n.f.p.w/3.m.p.sf., ma-anah, place for a task, ploughing ground])."

VERSE 4 The LORD is righteous ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] qyDIc; [adj.m.s.]);

He has cut in two the cords of the wicked ( #Ceqi [Piel.pf.3.m.s., qatsats, cut off, sever] tAb[] [n.f.s.cstr., aboth, cord, rope] `~y[iv'r [adj.m.s., rasha]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 1-4

  1. This song celebrates Israelís persecutions and her preservation from the ferocity of anti-Semitism.
  2. The songís probable setting and composition is pre-exilic.
  3. That is, the context is the return from Babylonian captivity.
  4. The psalm is divided into two parts.
  5. Verses 1-4 look backward with gratitude to Yahwehís preservation of the race, while vv.5-8 look confidently forward in time.
  6. Just as Psalm 124:1 opens with the call "Let Israel now say", and is followed by Ps.125:5c with "Peace be upon Israel," so Ps.128:6b is followed by Psalm 129:1, "Let Israel now say".
  7. Psalms 124 and 129 are identical in subject matter.
  8. The worshippers are enjoined by a priestly soloist to sing of Godís repeated preservation throughout the centuries of Gentile harassment.
  9. A single voice performed v.1, followed by a choir or congregation singing vv.2-8.
  10. The race (Israel) is called upon to sing of the mystery of their resilience (ability to survive "Many" attempts to annihilate the Jewish hope).
  11. "Many times" refers to all the historical attempts made against Godís people on the part of individuals and nations that threatened to overturn the promises and covenants made on their behalf from Abraham forward.
  12. Israel is to confess that, however much and severely she was oppressed, the race has not been obliterated from the stage of history.
  13. The words "from my youth up" draws the mind back to the Exodus and the Egyptian oppression.
  14. Israelís national youth dates to the time of the Exodus from Egypt (cp. Jer.2:2; Ezek.23:3; Hos.2:15; 11:1).
  15. This was the starting point for the reflections on national sufferings of both the undeserved and deserved varieties.
  16. Passover commemorated this event (cp. Hos.11:1).
  17. We overhear the priestly cantor with his opening line, then bringing the congregation in to thunder it out again.
  18. Verse 1b could be rendered "Let Israel repeat it".
  19. This song is a morale booster, encouraging Israel that no matter how bad it gets, God is her safety net (Ps.95:5; Isa.54:5; Hos.8:14).
  20. Israelís survivability in the face of overwhelming odds is set forth in v.2b.
  21. Israel is called upon to recall this all-important factor in her uncanny ability to survive one satanic threat after another.
  22. Verse 2b is her defiant affirmation before her enemies that racial Israel is indestructible.
  23. Both the people (regenerate) and the land have a divinely prescribed destiny that cannot be overturned (see doctrine of the Abrahamic Covenant).
  24. Verse 3 reflects, in metaphorical terms, upon what Israel has survived.
  25. Israel is portrayed as a scourged man, and the whelps upon his back are compared to a plowed field.
  26. The figure could hardly be stronger or more horribly apt.
  27. Verse 3 grimly develops verse 2a.
  28. The Messiah literally gave His back to the whip (Isa.50:6; Mt.27:26).
  29. Elsewhere in Scripture it is said that enemies have subjugated the chosen people (Ps.66:12), or have walked all over them (Isa.51:23).
  30. Without compassion and consideration, many peoples have ill-treated the bared back of the people of God.
  31. Without restraint, they exploited the race in extreme ferocity.
  32. Again and again Israel was knocked down, but never knocked out!
  33. Many of Israelís ordeals were punishments (DD), but Godís promises, based on His perfect character, is her life line.
  34. The mystery of the continual resilience of the chosen people is explained in v.4.
  35. Verse 4 amplifies verse 2b, after verse 3 has grimly developed v.2a.
  36. Yahwehís perfect character is at the foundation of Israelís survivability.
  37. God, being +R, can only act in accord with His promises (Word).
  38. In every dilemma He "cuts in two the cords of the wicked", as the Babylonian exile served to illustrate.
  39. The "cords of the wicked" refer to any predicament the race is in, whether due to their own malfeasance or not.
  40. To "cut in two the cords of the wicked" is to override the situations which could have ended Israelís historical quest as per the unconditional covenants.
  41. God cannot, and will not, cast off His ancient people (cf. Rom.11:1,2,11,15,23,25).
The Price for Hatred (vv. 5-8)
VERSE 5 May all who hate Zion ( lKo [n.m.s., all] yaen>fo [Qal.pt.m.p., shane, hate] `!Ayci [pr.n.])

Be put to shame and turned backward ( Wvboy [Qal.impf.3.m.p., bosh, be put to shame] WgSoyIw> [conj.w/Niphil.impf.3.m.p., sugh, turn back]) rAxa' [n.m.s., achor, the back side, rear; backwards]);

VERSE 6 Let them be like grass upon the housetops ( Wyh.y [Qal.impf.3.m.p., hayah, be] rycix]K [conj.w/n.m.s.cstr., chatsir, green grass] tAGG [n.m.p., gagh, roof]),

Which withers before it grows up (. `vbey" [Qal.pf.3.m.s., yabhesh, wither] tm;d>Q;v, [n.f.s.cstr., qademah; before] @l;v' [Qal.pf.3.m.s., shalaph, take off, shoot up[);

VERSE 7 With which the reaper does not fill his hand ( rceAq [Qal.pt.m.s., qatsar, be short, reap/harvest] aL{v [prep.w/neg.] aLemi [Piel.pf.3.m.s., male, fill] APk; [n.f.s.w/3.m.s.sf., kaph, hand]),

Or the binder of sheaves his bosom ( `rMe[;m. [Piel.pt.m.s., amar, bind sheaves] Anc.xiw> [conj.w/n.m.s.w/3.m.s.sf., chatsen, bosom]);

VERSE 8 Nor do those who pass by say ( al{w> [conj.w/neg.] ~yrIb.[oh' [Qal.pt.m.p., abhar, pass by] Wrm.a' [Qal.pf.3.c.p., amar, say]),

"The blessing of the LORD be upon you ( hw"hy>-tK;r>Bi [n.f.s.cstr., berachah, blessing + pr.n.] ~k,ylea [prep.w/2.m.p.sf.; "upon you"]);

We bless you in the name of the LORD ( Wnk.r;B [Piel.pf.1c.p., barak, bless] ~k,t.a, [dir.obj.w/2.m.p.sf.; "you"] ~veB. [prep.w/n.m.s., shem, name] `hw"hy> [pr.n.])."

ANALYSIS: VERSES 5-8

  1. In the final strophe the psalmist is led to pronounce cursing upon "all who hate Zion" (v.5).
  2. Zion-haters are anti-Semites who have no regard for Israelís unique place under God in the community of nations.
  3. Zion, or the holy city of Jerusalem, like the people which bear her name, invites the hostility of enemies far and wide.
  4. Satan deceives the nations through various ideologies which characteristically have an anti-Semitic bent.
  5. Zion (Jerusalem) has a special destiny as the city which is to hold sway over the nations of the earth.
  6. From here, Godís Son will rule the nations in righteousness and truth (Ps.2:6).
  7. Zion is the touchstone of Godís special purposes for Israel and the nations in the Millennial kingdom.
  8. Satan seeks to keep this from happening by stirring up hatred of the Jews and their occupation of the land of promise.
  9. The song announces the doom of all who oppose Godís purposes regarding the people, the land, and the city.
  10. The imprecation of verse 5-8 falls upon "all who hate Zion".
  11. This includes those who are indifferent, as well as those who are rabid.
  12. The wish is that they all will "be put to shame and turned backward."
  13. Zionís adversaries always find themselves the losers in the end.
  14. History is filled with the wreckage of nations and empires who persecuted the Jew.
  15. The present world is filled with Zionís ill-wishers.
  16. They appear in many forms and stripes.
  17. Some feign support for the interests of the Jews, while others are open in their animosity.
  18. Like fresh, green grass which sprouts up on the flat roofs of near eastern homes and holds promise, so the haters of Zion will come to nothing.
  19. Grass growing upon roof tops has no depth of root and withers in the heat of day (cp. Isa.37:27d).
  20. Volunteer grass growing upon housetops can be lush and green in its infancy, but the heat of the sun causes it to wither; and so, Godís wrath burns against those who hate Zion.
  21. What this hatred often consists of is nothing less than the annihilation of the Jewish race (cp. Ps.83:1-4).
  22. The simile, like the metaphor of v.3, is expanded, and culminates in the frustration of desire frustrated in v.7.
  23. The roof-grass withers before it can reach maturity with fully developed heads of grain.
  24. The harvest of anti-Semitism is a non-harvest negated by divine intervention.
  25. The well-omened harvest scene is evoked, only to be denied.
  26. The elation of initial success on the part of the haters of Zion is always dashed with the passage of time.
  27. Past ordeals and future threats in the end all wind up like a sorry harvest which is no harvest at all.
  28. God remains ever the champion and guardian of His people and their heritage.
  29. The enemies of Israel are as grass upon house-tops which is not gathered in; their lives and efforts close with sure destruction.
  30. All are "put to shame and turned backward", their "cords cut in two" by the hand of the One who watches over Israel.
  31. The usual plaudits which the passerby pronounced upon harvesters (cf. Ruth.2:4) is denied to those who sow the seed of anti-Semitism.
  32. What was begun among much enthusiasm and confidence (the hoped-for harvest of the haters of Zion) always ends the same way - in frustration and silence.
  33. The wicked (bystanders) will never congratulate the wicked (harvesters) in the any effort to once and for all obliterate the so-called Jewish menace.
  34. Psalm 129 is a song of confidence and hope.
  35. Godís people, who sang this song with understanding, were painfully aware of past ordeals and present threats.
  36. With the courage that sprang from real faith, they clung to Godís past revelation of Himself as champion of a people and a city.
  37. They dared to assert that their help in ages past was their hope for years to come.
END: PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-NINE
JACK M. BALLINGER
DECEMBER, 1997
 

© Copyright 1998, Maranatha Church Inc.