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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Psalms 129

Verses 1-8


This Psalm was written after the Captivity, and contains a reference to the many tribulations which the Jews passed through from their youth—i.e., the earliest part of their history,—their bondage in Egypt. The intent of the Psalmist is to comfort the Church in affliction, and to stir her up to glorify God for His providence over her, always for her good, and bringing her enemies to confusion and sudden ruin.—A. Clarke.


(Psalms 129:1-4)

I. That the good in all ages have been greatly afflicted.

1. The afflictions of the good are manifold. “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth” (Psalms 129:1). The Jews had been oppressed by Pharaoh in Egypt, by the tribes north of the wilderness, by the Canaanites, Philistines, and Ammonites, by the Assyrians and Babylonians; and now they were harassed by the time-serving Samaritans. So has it been in all ages. The Church has suffered from a variety of enemies—from the reigning powers for the time being, from the envy and hatred of unbelievers, from the falseness and apathy of professed friends.

2. The afflictions of the good are marked by unusual severity. “The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows” (Psalms 129:3). The sufferings of God’s people have been unparalleled. They have been torn as the husbandman tears the ground with his ploughshare. Many martyrs for the truth have been “first lashed with the terrible scorpion and loaded whips; and then, as they hung on the little horse, torn with the hooked rake, which literally dug deep, long furrows in their bleeding and quivering flesh.” But there is One in whom we see all Israel, and in whose sufferings the words of the text received a remarkable fulfilment. The incarnate Son of God gave His back to the smiters (Isaiah 50:6).

II. That the good have always survived the cruelty of their tormentors. “Yet they have not prevailed against me” (Psalms 129:2). The combined powers of evil have not been able to destroy the Church. A Swedish captain has recently invented a fire-proof dress, the wearer of which is enabled to walk up and down in the fiercest furnace without being injured. So the people of God have outlived the fiery assaults of the wicked, because clothed in the unconsumable panoply of the Divine protection. The afflictions of the Church have tended to its purity and strength. When Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch (A.D. 107), was taken to Rome and cast to the lions, he exclaimed, “I am God’s wheat, and must be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found His pure bread.” The Church of God is unconquerable. “It is,” says Trapp, “as the palm tree, which spreadeth and springeth up the more it is oppressed: as the bottle or bladder that may be dipped but not drowned: as the oak that sprouts out the thicker from the maims and wounds it receiveth.”

III. That the afflictions of the good are Divinely limited.

1. The character of God is a pledge of timely deliverance. “The Lord is righteous” (Psalms 129:4). As His people become worldly and unfaithful, He permits them to be afflicted; but when they cry to Him in penitence and faith, he delivers them out of their distresses. They suffer not a moment longer than may be necessary for their more complete consecration to God and holiness.

2. The power of the wicked to harm is limited. “He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked” (Psalms 129:4). Evil is not omnipotent, and it is restrained and defeated by the strong hand of God. The very instrumentalities by which the wicked sought to destroy the rising Church have been used to frustrate their cruel designs, and to effect their own ruin.


1. The holiest are not exempt from suffering.

2. Affliction may prove a blessed moral discipline.

3. The good are Divinely rescued from trial.


(Psalms 129:5-8)

I. They are signally defeated.—“Let them all be;” or, “They shall all be confounded, and turned back that hate Zion” (Psalms 129:5). Though advancing in formidable and threatening array, they shall be thrown into confusion and driven into ignominious retreat. They are engaged in an unequal conflict. They are allowed to gain some unimportant conquests, and while full of boastful daring, and reckoning upon certain and final victory, they are “melted like snow in the glance of the Lord” (Job 34:20-21; Psalms 70:2).

II. Their wicked life-purpose is abortive. “Let them be as the grass upon the house tops, which withereth,” &c. (Psalms 129:6-7). On the flat roofs of Eastern houses it is not uncommon to see grass growing, but for want of proper nourishment and soil, it cannot grow to maturity, and speedily withers away. It is sad to see one’s life-purpose suddenly collapse and hopelessly perish. But so must it be with the designs of the wicked, after a lifetime of plotting and toiling; so must it be with the wicked themselves (Isaiah 37:27).

III. They remain unblessed. “Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord” (Psalms 129:8). An emblem of Israel blessed by the Lord is a wide field of thickly growing corn stirred by gentle breezes under a ripening sun. As the labourers, humming or shouting snatches of cheery song, bind the sheaves and carry load after load away, they receive friendly salutations from people passing by (Ruth 2:4). The thought is ridiculous of house-top harvesting occasioning such benedictions. Equally out of question is it for the Church’s adversaries to be blessed by God or man. (The Caravan and Temple.) It is impossible for nature to furnish an emblem that can sufficiently express the utter confusion, disaster, and misery that will certainly overtake the enemies of God. It is the highest aggravation of their sufferings that they remain for ever unblest.


1. A life of sin is a series of disappointments and defeats.

2. The enemies of God cannot escape His righteous vengeance.

3. The haters of Zion ignore the hope of salvation, which it alone offers.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 129". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.