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The sentiment of the Psalm is, that the fear of God and righteousness never lose their reward. As the preceding Psalm, so also this is ruled by the number three: two strophes, each of three verses, and Jehovah thrice.
The subject is not, like Psalms 127 the individual fearer of God, but the ideal person of the fearers of God, the god-fearing Israel, who are also frequently personified elsewhere, for example, in Lamentations 3:1. This is clear from the expression in Psalms 128:5: behold the good of Jerusalem, from the conclusion in Psalms 128:6: Peace be upon Israel,—from the fact, that all the nameless pilgrim-songs refer to the whole of the community, as generally all post-exile Psalms, to the number of which, the flat and broken discourse of this Psalm, and its want of vigour and elevation, indicate that it ought to be referred; finally, from the circumstance, that all the original passages alluded to in it refer to Israel.
In a time of trouble and distress the fear of God appeared to be deprived for ever of its reward. This appearance threatened to injure it. An antidote against the disheartening sadness which would then be apt to insinuate itself upon Israel, is provided in our Psalm, on which, as is justly remarked by Tiling, the (Zechariah 8) 8th chapter of Zechariah may be regarded as a commentary. “Happy is the fearer of God, say I, for consolation amid circumstances, which seem loudly to declare the reverse. Fear ye not, let there only be no failure in you, God never fails. Sing, pray, and go in the way of God, only perform faithfully thy part, and thus shall the rich blessing of the Highest be renewed to you every morning.”
Ver. 1. A song for the pilgrimages. Happy is every one that fears the Lord, that walks in his ways. Ver. 2. The labour of thy hands wilt thou eat, it is well with thee, and thou hast good. Ver. 3. Thy wife is a fruitful vine in the interior of thy house, thy sons are as olive plants round about thy table.
Every one, in Psalms 128:1, means not merely the God-fearing Israelite of earlier times, but also that of the present. The fear of God will give proof of its reality by walking in the ways of God, so that no one, upon the ground of the mere appearance of such a thing, may lay claim to the promised reward.
The first member of Psalms 128:2 carries an allusion to Deuteronomy 28:33, comp. Leviticus 26:16, where it is threatened to the covenant-breaking Israel, that enemies should eat up the fruit of their land, and all their labour. In regard to כי , comp. on Psalms 118:10: Zechariah 8:10, ss. forms a commentary on it. אשריך is from Deuteronomy 33:29. טוב stands as neutr., and occupies the place of a noun.
On Psalms 128:3, comp. Zechariah 8:5: “and the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing upon its streets.” In like manner here also is a numerous, happy, and flourishing posterity promised to the apparently decaying Israel. Taken in regard to individuals, the promise will not altogether suit. Upon ירכתים , the innermost, comp. on Psalms 48:2. The green olive-tree as an image of joyful prosperity also in Jeremiah 11:16, Psalms 52:9.
Ver. 4-6 .
Ver. 4. Behold thus will the man be blessed, who fears the Lord. Ver. 5. The Lord will bless thee out of Zion, and see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Ver. 6. And see thy children’s children. Peace upon Israel.
Out of Zion, Psalms 128:5, comp. on Psalms 20:2. The imper. see is used in Psalms 128:5-6 in the sense of a promise, as in Psalms 37:3-4, Psalms 37:27, Psalms 110:2. Jerusalem is the centre of light for the whole land. In Psalms 122, which was composed by David, the well-being of the whole people was already connected with his salvation. If, therefore, Jerusalem was seen flourishing, the whole people must have been so too.
A commentary on Psalms 128:6 is to be found in Zechariah 8:4: “There shall yet old men and old women sit in the streets of Jerusalem, their staff in their hand, because of the fulness of their years.” In times of calamity men die comparatively early. What is here promised to the ideal person of the God-fearing Israel, must take effect in a multitude of particular individuals. On Psalms 128:6, last clause, comp. Psalms 125:5.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 128". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent