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Psalms: Chapter 127

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A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

1Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain on it; unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman keeps vigil in vain. 2In vain do you rise early and stay up late, you who toil for the bread you eat; b‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. He provides as much for His loved ones while they sleep. ‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain. 3Sons are the provision c Lit. “heritage.” of the LORD; the fruit of the womb, His reward. 4Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are sons born to a man in his youth. 5Happy is the man who fills his quiver with them; they shall not be put to shame when they contend with the enemy in the gate.

Notes:

b‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

c Lit. “heritage.”

Text Commentary view alone

Ps. 127 :

This psalm is didactic, teaching that God is the source of all. It divides into two parts: vv. 1–2 , with the focus on “house” and “city,” and vv. 3–5 , with the focus on sons. The two are connected, however, since “house” may be a metaphor for family (see esp. 2 Sam. 7.11 ), and the “quiver” of v. 5 is likely a metaphor for the “house” that is filled with “arrows,” namely “sons” (Radak). Like Pss. 128 and 131 , the images are familial.

1–2 :

The attribution of Solomon is due to the understanding of the house as the Temple, but more likely the psalm is addressed to Israelites in general, and “house” and “city” have no specific referent (cf. 128.5–6 n. ). Many medievals (including Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak) assume that this is a Davidic psalm, recited about (of) Solomon. The second half of v. 2 is hopelessly difficult and probably poorly preserved, yet as a whole, these vv. express an idea especially common in wisdom texts, that God ultimately controls all (e.g., Prov. 21.31 : “The horse is readied for the day of battle, But victory comes from the LORD”).

3–5 :

The view is very military and masculine. The term “gever” (man) in v. 5 is clearly male. The importance of a large family is a major theme of the ancestral narratives in Genesis. By using phrases such as “the LORD opened her womb” or “the LORD remembered her” (see esp. Gen. 30.22 ), those narratives emphasize the same point as these vv.: These (male) children are God's gift.

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