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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 128

Verse 1



The theme of these six brief verses is, "Blessed is every one that feareth Jehovah, that walketh in his ways" (Psalms 128:1), the same thought being repeated in Psalms 128:4.

The date, occasion and authorship are unknown.

Delitzsch pointed out that, "Psalms 127 and Psalms 128 supplement each other."[1] The happiness and prosperity that men desire is represented in Psalms 127 as "a gift of God," whereas in Psalms 128 they are seen as a reward. Psalms 127 stresses the gifts of God's grace, `while his beloved sleeps,' as contrasted with the fruitless `day and night' activities of wicked men; and here God's blessings are seen as a reward of a faith that works through love.

Barnes gives the following summary of what the psalm says.

It states in general (Psalms 128:1) the blessedness of those who fear the Lord. This blessedness is seen in: (a) their success in life; (b) a numerous, happy family (Psalms 128:3); (c) being permitted to see children's children (Psalms 128:6); (d) being permitted to see the prosperity of holy religion (Psalms 128:5); (e) seeing the prosperity of Jerusalem; and (f) peace upon Israel (Psalms 128:5-6).[2]

Psalms 128:1-2

"Blessed is every one that feareth Jehovah,

That walketh in his ways.

For thou shalt eat the labor of thy hands:

Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee."

As noted above, the first verse here is a concise statement of the theme of the psalm.

"Thou shalt eat the labor of thy hands" (Psalms 128:2). In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the work ethic is a cardinal principle of God's will for mankind. Even in Eden God assigned Adam work to do; and in the Decalogue, even ahead of the sabbath commandment, there thunders the commandment, "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work."

The society in which we live today has spawned a whole generation of people who expect to live by the fruit of other men's labors; but an apostle has written, "If a man will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

The first blessing which is mentioned here as belonging to the man who fears God and walks in his ways is that he shall indeed have his "daily bread." "To know that one's own hands have toiled for it always adds to the satisfaction of enjoying the blessing."[3]

Furthermore, the fact of one's having worked for his food should not be allowed to obscure the truth that it is actually the blessing of God. Many godly men can look back upon a lifetime of God's provisions for them.

Verse 3

"Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine,

In the innermost parts of thy house;

Thy children, like olive plants,

Round about thy table.

Behold, thus shall the man be blessed

That feareth Jehovah."

"A fruitful vine" (Psalms 128:3). This simile of a faithful wife is quite appropriate. A vine is beautiful, fruitful, desirable and valuable. Also, a vine needs the support of something to stabilize, protect and uphold it. The Lord's love of the vine is seen in that he also made it the metaphor of Israel, and, in the last analysis, a metaphor of Jesus Christ himself, "The Fairest of Ten Thousand." And from this, it also becomes a metaphor of the Church, "The Israel of God."

Kidner also noted that just as a vine remains in one place, so the faithful wife "stays at home." "This is in sharp contrast with what is said of the promiscuous wife in Proverbs 7:11, `She is loud and wayward, her feet do not stay at home.'"[4] In the New Testament, this quality is mentioned in Titus 2:5.

"Like olive plants around thy table" (Psalms 128:3). "As the husband looks on his sons gathered around his table, he is reminded of the numerous seedlings that shoot up under a cultivated olive tree."[5]

Numerous offspring were the specific blessings promised to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The numbers of their posterity were to reach astronomical proportions, "as numerous as the sands of the seashore," or "as the stars of the heavens." This vision of innumerable posterity continued throughout the history of Israel as a matter of the very greatest desirability. There was no disaster that a Jewish woman feared any more than the intolerable stigma of being childless.

"Thus shall the man be blessed that feareth Jehovah" (Psalms 128:4). "This repetition of verse 1 is to emphasize that all of the coveted blessings mentioned are properly experienced only in the context of the fear of God."[6]

It was this writer's privilege, as well as that of his wife, to grow up in exactly the type of God-fearing, industrious, happy family as that which is described in these verses.

Verse 5

"Jehovah bless thee out of Zion:

And see thou the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life.

Yea, see thou thy children's children.

Peace be upon Israel."

"The Lord bless thee from Zion" (Psalms 128:5). The thought here is that God's blessings upon his people are actually conveyed via the Lord's established religion. The prosperity and happiness of every God-fearing family upon earth is, in some degree, contingent upon the prosperity of holy religion in their community. From this comes the obligation of every God-fearing family, in our own times as well as in theirs, to support faithfully the advancement of the Word of God. This is done by faithful attendance of public worship and by faithful study of the Bible.

"Thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life" (Psalms 128:5). "The man who fears the Lord is a man whose happiness is imperfect unless he can see also the prosperity of Jerusalem."[7]

"All the days of thy life" (Psalms 128:5). There is more than a hint here that the God-fearing man will have a long life, a truth which is confirmed in the following verse. To be sure, "time and circumstance happen unto all men"; and there must, of course, be exceptions to a rule such as this; but, in the general sense, it is most certainly the truth.

"May you see your children's children" (Psalms 128:6). Solomon said that, "Children's children are the crown of an old man" (Proverbs 17:6). Spurgeon's comment on this was that, "The good man is glad that a pious stock is likely to be continued; he rejoices in the belief that other homes as happy as his own will be established, wherein there are altars to the glory of God."[8]

"Peace be upon Israel" (Psalms 128:6). When this was written, God's Israel was composed of the "seed" of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but, even at that time, all of the literal posterity of the patriarchs were not counted as God's Israel, as for example, in the case of the Edomites and the Ishmaelites, all of whom were just as much Abraham's children as were any others.

The true Israel, for a long period of history, was indistinguishable from the nation, which became more and more wicked. For example, in the times of Elijah, there were only 7,000 worshippers of God in the millions of the population of the nation. By the times of Christ, the true Israel had dwindled to a comparatively few, including the apostles and prophets of the new dispensation. These became the nucleus of the Greater Israel known as Christianity, of which Paul wrote, when he said, "Peace be... and mercy upon the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16).

In our own times, all who fear the Lord and follow his teachings, are as fully concerned for the peace and prosperity of the Church which is the New Israel as were any who lived under the Old Covenant were solicitous for the welfare of the Old Israel.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 128". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.